I would like to provide an update on the development of three vaccine candidates and a summary of available therapeutics, although some may still be experimental.

But first let’s look at the dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally there have been 16.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, bearing in mind that this number is probably 10- to 20-fold higher than the number of confirmed cases; and 654,000 deaths due to the disease.

The United States now reports one fourth of all cases of COVID-19 reported world-wide with 4.4 million confirmed cases and 150,000 deaths.

South Dakota has reported 8,444 total cases, including 49 new cases per day (holding steady). There have been 123 deaths due to COVID-19.    

Testing in South Dakota does not meet the minimum guidelines from the WHO or from the CDC. Only 1.3 tests have been administered per 1,000 residents. This deficit must be corrected at once if we are to beat the pandemic. It is that simple.

Furthermore, the WHO and the CDC both have recommended that the percent of tests that come back positive should be under 5% if we are to reopen bars, restaurants, churches and most importantly our schools. South Dakota has a percent positive of 8% overall and 6.1% currently. South Dakota is on the cusp of this threshold.

Lawrence County has a total of 26 cases, with less than one case reported per day. There have been no deaths. Meade County has a total of 67 cases, with less than one new case per day. There has been a single death.

Next month at this time we will be able to evaluate the risk posed to us all during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. My major concern is our limited healthcare capacity. In both Lawrence and Meade counties combined there are a total of 124 beds and eight ICU beds. I suspect that this limited capacity will be threatened by the numbers of sick people that arrive for the rally.

We do have some good news on the treatment and prevention aspects of the disease. There are three vaccine candidates scheduled to start the final phases of testing. One of the candidates sponsored by Pfizer, will perform the most robust Phase 3 clinical trial, to include over 30,000 volunteers. These manufacturers are each hoping to provide the government with 100 million doses by year’s end and another 300 million doses (enough to treat the US population – at no cost to Americans) early in 2021. We also have data from randomized controlled trials that demonstrate that Remdesivir, dexamethasone, convalescent serum, heparin, and, most recently beta interferon can reduce mortality and shorten the time to recovery in patients with the disease. I believe we will see even more drugs and treatments for COVID-19, making it a whole lot less frightening to live in these perilous times.

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