It’s been more than 100 days since the World Health Organization (WHO) was first notified about a cluster of unidentified and unusual pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. In the short time since then, the world has changed dramatically. On Feb. 11, WHO announced “COVID-19” as the name of the disease which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A month later, WHO declared the outbreak to be a global pandemic.
Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and director of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, has been closely following the pandemic since the beginning, and continues to provide insight and important guidance on preventing the spread of the disease.
“I never cease to be amazed. And when you think of what collaboratively, internationally, has happened in terms of the generation of new knowledge, it’s astounding,” says Dr. Poland.
Collaborations among organizations like WHO, governments, academia, the private sector and more have helped fast-track processes, such as the development of tests that detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in clinical samples, as well as bridge therapies.
“Mayo Clinic was named the national coordinating center for plasma-derived therapies,” says Dr. Poland. “What that means is that once somebody recovers from this infection, we can take their blood; harvest the plasma, which is enriched with antibodies against COVID-19; and then use that as a therapy for people who might have more severe disease.”
Mayo is doing this at the direction of the Food and Drug Administration and in a national collaboration involving Johns Hopkins University and other institutions.
Currently, groups around the globe, including Mayo Clinic, are involved in vaccine development.
“There are some 60 vaccine candidates that are being bandied about. There’s only one actually in phase I clinical trials here in the U.S., and this is actually the start of the fourth week of that trial. They will enroll a total of 45 individuals, and then we hope that within the next few weeks to a month, we’ll have the data from that trial and the determination whether to take that into phase II testing,” says Dr. Poland.
As far as when a vaccine for COVID-19 might be available, Dr. Poland says that’s a tough question.
“I think an optimistic ― and I’m going to say very optimistic ― milestone might be in the 18–24 month time period,” says Dr. Poland.
10 things to get you through the next 100 days
“It’s been 100 days, and we might have another 100 days in front of us. It’s hard to know. So what can people do at this midpoint, let’s call it? Some of these are kind of obvious, but I thought I’d speak to 10 things that, collectively, there’s good evidence to support their value,” says Dr. Poland.
Here they are:
Fast from the media
What I mean by that is that I don’t think it’s good, and data would suggest, it’s not good to sit in front of the TV all day. We’re at home. We’re teleworking. We’re going to school from a distance. Pay attention to the news, maybe 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening or something, but then do something else.
The tendency is going to be to reach for snack foods ― to reach for easy, quick, processed foods to prepare. So this is an opportunity to take time. My wife and I cook together. Well, she does the cooking and I do the eating.
Don’t forget about sleep. This is a stressful time for people, and eating right, sleeping, and the next one ― exercise ― are things that are known to improve your immune system. You want to be as healthy as you can be.
Regular aerobic exercise is important to a healthy body, immune system and attitude.
Connect with others
We are social creatures. We are meant to be in community with one another. That may have to be using technology as we’re doing. It might be a phone call. It might be a Google Hangout or Facebook. But connect with people in a meaningful way.
Be grateful and think positively
It’s easy to say. It’s a little harder to practice. And that is, even amid this trial, gratitude and positive thinking go a long way. My daughter actually keeps a gratitude journal and tries to keep a healthy perspective.
Whatever your spiritual beliefs, faith turns out to be a big driver of well-being when people are stressed and fearful in uncertain conditions. Believing in something bigger than yourself is important to well-being.
Establish a routine
Routines are very important in human behavior. Have routines and build fun into them.
Helping others is a very positive step for all involved. Maybe you can help your neighbor by getting groceries if you go shopping so that you don’t have two people going out ― just one.
Learn something new
Embark on learning something new. There’s a lot of people stuck at home. This would be a fabulous time, particularly as a family to say: “Let’s learn something important together. Let’s learn something that we’ll use the rest of our lives.” This is a wonderful opportunity to do so. Don’t waste the gift of time.