Throughout the past few months, I've often been asked what the fall and winter will look like in terms of COVID-19. And my response never falls short. Whatever is coming, rest assured we are prepared.
A quick look at the exponentially rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country can lead to feelings of angst and uncertainty. We recently reported more than 200,000 new cases and 100,000 hospitalizations in one day for the first time. Forty-seven states have uncontrolled spread. Go deeper and you'll find that we have gone from 10 million to 14 million cases in a two-week span.
New York City—COVID's first epicenter in the U.S.—is on the brink of another wave, yet, as dire of a scenario as this may seem, I remain eternally optimistic about our path forward. Here's why.
First, we are much more prepared than we were in the spring. The lessons learned from combating an illness we can't see and with no known treatments have helped us prepare for every scenario, including max capacity in our hospitals. And further dramatic advancements are ahead. While the past few months have brought more cases, we are far more advanced in treating COVID-19. Food and Drug Administration-approved remdesivir is making a difference. The FDA also gave emergency use approval to Eli Lilly's monoclonal antibody treatment. Combine those medications with an impactful education received by our doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and many others since this spring, and we now have powerful weapons in this battle.
Secondly, a vaccine is on the way. Northwell Health, for example, is working with New York state to take advantage of our large, integrated health system to establish a distribution network once a safe and effective vaccine is approved. And we're very close. Pfizer applied for emergency use approval after the final analysis of its vaccine showed 95% efficacy in preventing infections with minimal side effects. Moderna's vaccine also showed 94.5% efficacy. AstraZeneca and Novavax have also expressed similar confidence in their vaccine trials. A vaccine could be approved and offered to front-line healthcare workers within weeks. And further advancements could potentially combine the COVID vaccine into the annual flu shot as the science improves.
Despite the historic milestone in this pandemic, we should not get negligent about mask-wearing, hand-washing and other precautions when a vaccine is approved and delivered.
Third, the political warfare that slowed pandemic progress—if not halted altogether—is finally over. A reinvigorated Washington has its eyes set on following science rather than false claims about the virus' true existence. President-elect Joe Biden has established a team of the nation's top infectious disease specialists to develop a nationwide response, which has been perhaps the biggest failure of the current administration during this crisis.
Having consistency in Washington will push more consistency from state to state. Some governors have enforced half measures. COVID doesn't care about borders, so having one state follow precautions while its neighbors do not has only exacerbated the spread. A national encouragement to wear masks will pay dividends. And distancing should be top of mind as we near the colder months and the holidays.
Fourth, speaking of federal response, a more rational plan about testing and prevention should be coming. Leaving it to individual states allows too many cracks in the chain. Sure, testing has grown leaps and bounds since March, and we are testing more people with shorter wait times. Delivery models (saliva, nasal swab and others), have also expanded access. But we still need more testing to make a dent, and it won't happen unless we are working as one.
Make no mistake, we are in the worst of the pandemic as a country. And there's still a long road ahead that will require collaboration to finally rid this illness. We need your help. Don't let your guard down and continue practicing what we know works—wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing. It's said that it's truly darkest before dawn and I'm confident that we are closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning. I see the light on the horizon and am optimistic about the coming months. You should be too.