Medical Lessons Learned So Far During The Pandemic

After hundreds of medical discoveries related to the COVID pandemic in the past year and a half, what have we learned?
Posted at 7:12 PM, Jul 28, 2021

“As of the morning of March 13, 2020, the CDC is reporting more than 1500 cases of COVID-19"... 

If only we knew then what we know now...back those nearly 500 days ago when coronavirus was declared a national emergency in the U.S. Reflecting on this pandemic, years from now, doctors think we’ll be impressed by the speed of the  science but depressed by society’s response.  

"The most important, I think, is that thwarting a virus in a pandemic is a combination of a medical and scientific endeavor and a sociopolitical endeavor," Dr. Bob Wachter, Department of Medicine Chair, University of California San Francisco said.

Early on, sequencing the COVID-19 virus helped scientists develop tests, vaccines, treatments, and even track the virus variants today.  One hindsight lesson - getting tests to people, quickly. The FDA didn’t green light rapid or saliva tests until late spring, summer 2020.  

"Spring of 2020, really, no one could get tested. It was almost impossible to get testing. Now you can go to your local drugstore and get a home test kit to really help us understand and control this," Dr. Michelle Prickett, Pulmonologist, Northwestern Medicine said. 

And of course, there’s vaccines. MRNA research helped jump start Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines, now in the arms of more than 163 million Americans.  

"The vaccine has been very, very effective. And we're seeing it to be very effective and very safe in a lot of people, hundreds of millions of people who have received this vaccine," Dr. Frank Esper, Pediatric Disease Specialist, Cleveland Clinic said.

But of course, there’s the behavior part. Both vaccines and masking have been slowed by hesitation and politicization.  The latest Kaiser Family Foundation data show more people in Republican-leaning and in rural areas said they would “definitely not” get a COVID vaccine.  

Cindy Hillenburg said, “Haven't gotten it, probably won't get it.” 

Simon, 21, said  “It's a new vaccine so I'd rather wait to see what happens in the future with that.” 

"I personally am done with the masks for my child. It’s a choice we have made for our child and he is immunocompromised," Aimee Romano, a mother of a 10-year-old said. 

"It's going to lead to, is already led to hundreds of thousands of deaths more than we needed, and I think we're unfortunately staring down at another few hundred thousand deaths that did not need to happen," Wachter said. 

So have we learned? We have more tools, to be sure, and the data to back it up.  

But currently, unvaxxed and unmasked situations, mixed with the highly contagious Delta variant-now making up about 80% of sequenced COVID cases-it's a perfect storm. Leaving hospitals and those working in them, feeling déjà vu. 

" It just seems like we're just fighting a losing battle here," Sarah Lowell, a Critical Care Nurse, said.

"We have the capacity now to really shape how we can behave. But it will require some behavioral modification for us to have that normalcy. It comes at a cost. It comes at a wearing mask. It comes of vaccination. It comes at washing our hands as much as we can. And potentially testing and screening. Again, they're not asking the world. We're asking very small things, but we have to do something," Prickett said. 

For Newsy, I’m Lindsey Theis. 

CNN contributed to this report.