The final endgame is a vaccine. But even if progress is unprecedentedly fast, we can’t count on enough doses of an effective vaccine until 2021 at the earliest. We will all have to get used to periods of localized social distancing, wearing face masks in public, de-densifying our schools and offices, staying 6 feet from people. But a massive scientific mobilization is underway. The pandemic is bringing together scientists around the world as never before. Disciplines that rarely if ever thought about infectious disease before the pandemic are now applying their skills.
We should not be waiting for a single silver bullet that will solve the pandemic. The scientific breakthroughs that will come will not necessarily be front page news (“COVID is cured!”). Rather, each day and each week, breakthroughs are occurring that represent great progress, but are too small to see individually. Slowly, this collection of small wins is what will pull us through. Areas to keep an eye on are new medical treatments; repurposing old drugs; more clever “adaptive” isolation and quarantine approaches; smarter contact tracing; understanding transmission pathways in homes, schools, senior facilities, healthcare, and offices; effectiveness of interventions; viral sequencing; and more. The scientific community must continue to put in the intellectual, laboratory, and analytical-based work here.
We have built a magnificent scientific machine in this country – if we put our collective efforts on solving this one problem, amazing solutions, that we cannot predict today, will emerge.