'Gloomy' COVID Reporter Has a Change of Heart

Donald G. McNeil Jr. is 'cautiously optimistic' about what lies ahead
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2020 11:42 AM CDT
'Gloomy' Pandemic Reporter: I Can Finally See Hope
In this Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, an employee walks through an empty American Airlines arrivals area at Miami International Airport during the coronavirus pandemic.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

Since January, New York Times health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. has been covering the pandemic, including American deaths and efforts to develop a vaccine years ahead of the fastest pace on record. All this has made him "a consistently gloomy Cassandra"—but halfway through October, he's finally starting to feel "cautiously optimistic." We've learned a lot, and "experts are saying, with genuine confidence, that the pandemic in the United States will be over far sooner than they expected, possibly by the middle of next year," he writes in a Times op-ed. But to reach the end, Americans need to wade through a challenging fall and winter. "Cases are rising in most states, and some hospitals already face being overwhelmed," he writes, noting "the final death toll ... will depend both on how we behave going forward and how quickly innovations arrive."

He notes "indoor dining, in-classroom schooling, contact sports, jet travel, and family holiday dinners may all drive up infections, hospitalizations, and deaths" before a vaccine is approved. Operation Warp Speed's chief scientific adviser, Moncef Slaoui, expects that to happen in January, and he hopes to see enough doses for every American by June. In the meantime, monoclonal antibodies could potentially "be used like a fast-acting vaccine, lasting just a month or so." But "until then, masks and caution are our best alternative," McNeil writes, noting mask use reached as high as 90% this month. "If we rigorously protect ourselves and each other, we can starve the virus of new hosts until our national epidemic finally evaporates," McNeil writes. "Then we must help other countries get vaccines" and work to ensure "this does not happen again." Read the full piece here. (More coronavirus stories.)

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