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'We still have a major problem with outpatient testing': Dr. Amesh Adalja

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Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins center for health security, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest developments regarding a COVID-19 vaccine and the surge of COVID-19 cases accross the United States.

Video Transcript

- Let's discuss this with one of the people who is dealing with COVID-19 in the pandemic on the frontlines. Dr. Amesh Adalja is joining us. He's the senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Good to have you here. This news, I-- personally, I'm not a doctor, but it sounds good to me. What about you in the medical profession? Is it truly the kind of thing where we can start to breathe a sigh of relief?

AMESH ADALJA: We will be able to breathe a sigh of relief, but not quite yet, because you have to remember that these vaccines are not going to be something that are going to be available for the general public until well into 2021. And the Regeneron monoclonal antibody as well as the Lilly antibody, these are not game changers. These are going to be marginal improvements to our ability to keep people out of the hospital. So we still have a lot of hard work to do these next couple of weeks as we get into the Thanksgiving holiday, as we worry about hospitals going near crisis capacity.

- Dr. Adalja, talking about hospitals going towards crisis capacity, we have hospitals they shouldn't hitting a record high for the 13th day in a row, how big of a help is the FDA approving emergency use of Regeneron just in terms of giving hospitals another option or a viable option here as they face-- as they're just overwhelmed with patients? Will it really help them get patients out the door?

AMESH ADALJA: No, this is a drug that you don't want to give to someone it's in a hospital. You have to give it early. So that's the problem with the Regeneron drug and the Lilly drug-- you have to identify people quickly before they require hospitalization. And then this is an infusion. It takes an hour to give. In an hour, you have to watch the person to make sure that there's not side effects. You've got to find an infusion center to give this drug out.

So it's not something that has an easy concept of operations. And many hospitals don't have the equipment to be able to do this, because you can't put them in the normal infusion center, where cancer patients are, because these patients have COVID. So there's an infection control risk. So although these are great milestones, these drugs, it's going to take some time to actually have an impact on how hospitalization rates fare. Because ideally, you give this to people to prevent them from going to the hospital. So you've got to catch them somehow soon after their test result is positive. And that's something it's very hard to do. And I think we're going to have challenges all around the country to deliver these drugs.

- You know, you could see those challenges right here in New York City. You can see it across the country. But there were lines to get your COVID test around the block, in certain parts of the five borroughs. And it boils down to the ability to get tested. What are you seeing? Is there going to be improvement with this, a holiday rush of people defying the CDC and planning to travel? What do you think?

AMESH ADALJA: There definitely has been a holiday rush, but this is just more of the same problem that we've seen since the beginning of this pandemic. That we still have a major problem with outpatient testing, where there are long lines, where there are turnaround time delays that maybe are four or five days in duration, which the test actually completely useless for people to use for contact tracing or to guide their actions. I do think that this is something that we're going to probably see some movement on as we move into the new year, where a home test might become something of a possibility, because people will be able to use these to guide their actions. Maybe brush their teeth and take a home test. And I think there is a lot of effort to put these into place.

- All right, Dr. Amesh Adalja is the senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. All the best to you and your team. Thank you for being here.

AMESH ADALJA: Thank you.