EOT321 COVID-19 Year in Review 12/27/20

In this year-end retrospective, host Aaron Kling talks about what we've learned about COVID-19.

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF EPISODE
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Aaron Kling  00:00
The views and opinions expressed during "Eye on the Triangle" do not represent WKNC, or the student media. Your dial is currently tuned to "Eye on the Triangle"  at WKNC 88.1. Thanks for listening.
 
Aaron Kling  00:12
Hello everyone. I'm Aaron Kling for WKNC 88.1's "Eye on the Triangle." And tonight, we'll be discussing COVID-19. Naturally, all of you have heard quite a bit about this disease so far, but we at "Eye on the Triangle" thought it would be good to close up the end of 2020 with a breakdown of what we know about COVID. We'll do our best to strive to present you with information that you haven't already heard 1,000 times. All right. Let's begin then. 
 
Aaron Kling  00:59
What do we know about COVID-19 now that we didn't know about to begin with? As anyone would expect, researchers worldwide have been studying COVID-19 essentially non-stop. Today, compared to its identification of Wu Han China in the month of December, we have more lab research, case studies and examples of the disease among the public than ever before. Let's go over a few.
 
Aaron Kling  01:23
COVID-19 was originally believed to primarily target the elderly, with risk of complications growing alongside the age of the patient. Unfortunately, we are now aware that children can present more than mild symptoms once infected, and one in three children that are hospitalized will require transfer to an intensive care unit SARS COV2 has largely been identified as a respiratory virus. Common are the same effects compared a lot to the flu. And any of our listeners that have long memories will remember that health officials stated as much here on "Eye on the Triangle." For the most part, these details remain true. SARS COV-2 infections can give a person aches, fever, chills, coughing, everything you would expect. Yet research has also demonstrated the virus can have worrying secondary effects in the body even after it has been defeated by our immune system. Our bodies work into a frenzy by the presence of a pathogen can cause inflammation of the tissue of the heart. This can create chest pain and further down the road can increase your risk of heart failure. Additionally, COVID fog a state of persistent absent mindedness, has been reported in the wake of some cases. It's sort of like you're stuck in confusion, like everything doesn't really make as much sense. This can leave the affected individual unbalanced for weeks, even after the disease passes.
 
Aaron Kling  02:56
These effects have even been reported individuals who experienced mild symptoms, leaving researchers wondering what the long-term prognosis for survivors will entail. Though COVID-19 remains  serious, we've learned a few things that may make it easier to deal with. Firstly, vaccine production can be achieved much faster than experts previously believed was possible. More on this later, but consider that we may be seeing vaccines by 2021. A lightning quick development timetable considering such treatments normally take 10 to 15 years to complete. COVID has a low rate of mutation, at least when compared to other viruses. While we have seen some variation and mutations in COVID over the course of the pandemic. This is really resulted only in one major branch, which did little to change the danger or infectivity of the disease. The low amount of mutation is excellent news, both for researching treatments, cures and preventative measures as well as for ensuring the disease's impact doesn't worsen. 
 
Aaron Kling  03:59
Despite all the research that has gone into this pandemic, there is still plenty we have yet to understand. For example, when some individuals contracto COVID-19 they report very mild symptoms or even no symptoms. This can make the disease appear to be a cold or an outbreak of allergies, and generally has done plenty to make everyone terribly paranoid every time they get a little tickle in their throat. Because COVID doesn't hit everyone like a cold, for the unlucky it can drop oxygen levels and blood, constrict breathing and leave the infected hacking and wheezing. For others, it can cause a storm of autoimmune responses where cells attack bodily organs until death. Researchers still cannot determine what causes the illness of damage some and only inconvenience others. Current theories point to a failure of interferon proteins in the body that engage our immune systems defenses. Without the crucial first response to these interferon proteins, no alarms really go off in the body, and you give the virus a head start, so to speak. This intensifies symptoms and can increase lethality. Yet, in other patients, it's actually the immune system causing most of the problems with an excess of the protein, interleukin six and TNF alpha. When these are in higher concentrations in the body, it seems to lead to higher morbidity that's death. And just generally a negative prognosis over time. 
 
Aaron Kling  05:35
Also of interest is whether or not an infection of SARS COV-2  can grant a stable and long-lasting period of immunity. Common knowledge states that once you get a disease, you can never get it again. Sure, maybe you might catch a different strain floating around out there, but at least your body won't fall for the same trick twice. Right? Well, some good news here. In this case, that appears to be true. Studies have shown that antibodies and specially produced T cells remain in the body on standby for further attacks from COVID and persist for at least six months time. The issue here is that a few individuals appear to have suffered reinfections despite successfully staving off the virus the first time. What this means is that even with a six month window, there is still some measure of risk for reinfection. In the case of the original SARS and the very similar MARES, both of which are coronaviruses, immunity lasts a year, though nothing is certain if SARS-2 persistently environment like other diseases, such as influenza, that a year of immunity will prove to be pretty short in the long run.
 
Aaron Kling  06:45
So with all this information, where are we now? How is COVID-19 affected the United States? Well, listeners, the short answer here is badly. I've seen individuals compare SARS COV-2 to to some of the worst diseases in history, the black deaths, Yersina pestis, [unknown], the Spanish flu, H1-N1. This comparison is usually made to downplay SARS COV-2 to demonstrate that we survived vastly worse and that the pandemic is nothing to really be afraid of. That cannot stress this enough. That is a wrongheaded way to look at this. Remember, we don't have a handle on SARS COV-2 right now. Unlike those diseases of the past, it may not be the deadliest disease in history. But it's the disease that's killing thousands of Americans daily. 300,000 Americans have died so far. And the numbers aren't going down. Week by week, they're trending upwards. Over the summer, death rates were dropping. But now in mid-December, they're the highest they've ever been. 3,293 people died in America on December 16 alone. Globally, we're number one in new infections and deaths and have been for months. The population hit hardest within our nation, our black and Latinx, both of whom have a higher chance of dying from a COVID-19 infection. 
 
Aaron Kling  08:16
We're simply not taking care of our people. There's no bright side to this. No silver lining. SARS COV-2 may have flu like symptoms, but it's not killing us like a seasonal flu would. This is the pandemic in our laps, right this instant. Rising cases means a higher chance of critically ill patients heading to hospitals. And that means more stress on a system unprepared for this eventuality. This could lead to doctors having to make some hard decisions between patients. And this is something we've already seen during the Italian health crisis. In Kentucky, hospitals have begun establishing triage centers to determine treatment courses for an expected larger influx of patients. In Utah, a medical system stretched to the breaking point is beginning to report that informal rationing of care is just what has to happen for patients to survive. So yeah, now it would be a really great time for a vaccine to be released. 
 
Aaron Kling  09:15
As we've established that COVID-19 Coronavirus relatives can reinfect after about a year, a vaccine is crucial to finally end this pandemic. As mentioned before vaccine programs have gone through an accelerated approval and testing program that has no equal in history. Over 200 vaccines are in production now with Pfizer and Moderna's mRNA based injections reportedly 95% effective in preventing infection. Some countries such as the United Arab Emirates, China, Russia and Great Britain have already begun provisional or emergency distribution of their own vaccines to their citizens. So what about the US? Unfortunately, vaccine distribution isn't going to be like a movie right? There isn't going to be some location where everyone can go to acquire a vaccine. Once a vaccine gets approved outright, we're not all going to get it right away. 
 
Aaron Kling  10:10
So first, what's going to happen? Tens of millions of healthcare workers are going to get the vaccine, followed shortly afterwards by extreme risk individuals in care homes across the nation. The vaccines path will follow a sort of an essential worker hierarchy from there, making its way to the hands of the general populace, and supposedly being given to children last due to children having a generally lower risk. But the thing is, that's just the overall plan. These mRNA treatments, they begin to degrade at temperatures above negative 94 degrees. That means the process of transporting vaccines alone will be a serious strain for many locations, expect that urban areas will receive the vaccine first, and then it will flow outwards to rural regions. 
 
Aaron Kling  10:53
So some outlets have mentioned that vaccines should begin circulating along these lines by the spring. But remember that not everyone will get them. At least not immediately. We've done quite a bit of waiting already. But make no mistake, things aren't going to get easier from here. So I'll leave you with the usual then. Wear a mask outside. Stay six feet apart. Wash your hands frequently. Stay healthy for yourself and for your family. At this point, it's all routine. Right? 
 
Aaron Kling  11:25
This is my last show everybody. After this there'll be someone brand new at the microphone. Thanks for making my time here unforgettable. It is really been a heck of a year, right? WKNC 88.1's "Eye on the Triangle." I'm Aaron Kling,
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