Dr. Clay Marsh is hesitant to put a time frame on when COVID-19 will become more of a manageable nuisance than the possibly deadly virus that requires weeklong quarantines. Yet he’s optimistic that time will come in the future.
Since the pandemic began in early 2020, Marsh has been the foremost voice on the disease in West Virginia. Gov. Jim Justice tabbed Marsh, the vice president and executive dean for health sciences at West Virginia University, early in the pandemic as the state’s coronavirus response coordinator, more commonly called West Virginia’s “COVID czar.”
Marsh has been one of the state’s guiding lights on the virus since the beginning. He has watched the rapid creation of COVID vaccines and their speedy distribution into the state. He has watched West Virginia move from strict occupancy limits in public places and mandatory masking to the present, where life has returned to a point much more normal than during the thick of the pandemic.
He considers it an “extraordinary experience” watching the adaptability and rapidity of the medical field and government.
“I think it’s been a tour de force of a lot of different groups coming together,” he said. “But at the same time, we know that many people have lost their faith in science and medicine and other things. So there’s also been a lot of separation and some polarization during this time.
“So I think it’s time for us to heal not only from COVID but healing our country from the differences that separate, which always make us weaker.”
There are tools at the public’s disposal that can help that healing. Among them are the newest COVID vaccine, the Paxlovid antiviral pill that helps reduce symptoms and home tests.
The new vaccine, which is available now, showed favorable results against recent mutations of COVID-19. The Paxlovid and home testing combination could help reduce the quarantine time for COVID positive patients.
The U.S. Centers For Disease Control recommendation is for COVID positive people to quarantine for five days. That’s much better than the initial 14 day quarantine recommended at the start of the pandemic, but still keeps COVID positive people out of commission for nearly a full week.
But Paxlovid does well in killing the virus, Marsh said, and having two negative COVID tests within 24 hours makes it much less likely that a person would infect others when they venture into public.
“What I think will happen over time, particularly as we may get even additional tools that might kill the COVID virus even more efficiently than Paxlovid — and Paxlovid is a really, really great tool in our approach to helping people not die and not go into hospital, etc., from COVID infections — but then as your tests become negative, then you could feel more comfortable that you could go out and likely not infect other people,” Marsh said.
The overall landscape of COVID also has changed, Marsh said. Studies show that between 95% and 98% of Americans have some immunity to COVID, whether it is from previous infection and recovery, from vaccination or from both. There still, however, will be times when COVID ramps up, much like flu season.
People who are more at risk of developing severe COVID symptoms should be more thoughtful about the environments they enter, Marsh said, and whether they want to do anything to protect themselves from seasonal viruses.
“I don’t say that in an alarmist way,” Marsh said. “But I do think generally that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure really works pretty well for most people.”
Source: The Intelligencer