Coronavirus Report

Coronavirus Report: The Hill’s Steve Clemons interviews Mark R. Dybul

The Hill’s Steve Clemons interviews former U.S. global AIDS coordinator Mark Dybul, who is currently the co-director at Georgetown Center for Global Health Practice and Impact. 

Some excerpts from the interview below: 

MARK DYBUL: What we need to do now is get as many possible test kits out and test as many people as possible because if we don’t test, we don’t know where the virus is going or what it’s doing in our population. Once we have those tests out — it’s a little late for us to do what South Korea and Singapore did, but at least we can catch up on the contact tracing and quarantine.

MARK DYBUL: This is a global pandemic, one that really no one alive right now has experienced. We’ve had things that looked like it could be, for example in 2009 the swine flu, there were concerns about SARS and MERS, but really this is the first time we’ve had this. This is like 1918, in the flu epidemic of 1918. So, what we know is that the virus is all over the world. It’s not just in the United States. And you just look at China, as soon as you they started to lift restrictions, the virus came back because the virus is all over. So unless we close our borders indefinitely, not only to the outside countries but within ourselves, we will likely see sporadic outbreaks of the virus.

MARK DYBUL: If it comes back in the fall, it could be more deadly, more virulent. And if we’re not prepared for that, we’re in deep trouble. So we need to understand what the replication rate of the virus is, where it’s going and how quickly it’s mutating. Are those mutations related to being more infectious or more deadly. And that’s what we think happened in 1918.

MARK DYBUL: We should definitely be suspicious of quick fixes. Science has its methods, and they can be a little bit slower than people like. But if we don’t know — and I’m just following Bill Gates’s op-ed here because I’m not inside the conversation in the U.S. government … If we don’t know something works, stockpiling and telling people to use it, can be dangerous. And very importantly, that drug is life saving for people with lupus. If they can’t get that drug [hydroxychloroquine], people are going to die from lupus as we’re stockpiling something that might not work at all.

MARK DYBUL: There’s no question that states that have not implemented the orders that others have followed are putting their populations at risk. There’s absolutely no question about it, because we got behind [in testing], we couldn’t do what South Korea and Singapore did because the epidemic is widespread. … South Korea has said that they believe they have 10 COVID-19 infections for every one they’ve diagnosed. So if you look at the United States, that means we’re somewhere around 4 [million] to 5 million. …We haven’t tested enough, so we’re now at probably more than 10 to 1. So there are a lot of infections, a lot of asymptomatic infections. Young people could be carrying asymptomatic virus around and spreading it all over.

MARK DYBUL: The one thing we know is that we cannot ever defeat a pandemic without deep engagement of the community. And communities all over this country and all over the world are solving and creating solutions to these problems. So whether it’s Italians singing from their balconies or people doing exercises online. We found personally ways to do it by doing face time and staying in touch with people. There’s a difference between a phone call and seeing someone in person. With that connectivity. The shelter in place orders allow people to get outside, get a little exercise, get some fresh air. But I would say the solution of this is for us, talking heads, in capitals, NOT to solve that problem, but actually be reaching out to people in the communities and ask them, “What do you need?”

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