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Three-quarters of Americans are worried about the vaccine rush: Pew

Dr. Dara Kass, Yahoo Medical Contributor and Columbia University Associate Professor, joins Yahoo Finance's Akiko Fujita to break down the latest coronavirus developments as the race for a vaccine continues.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: The number of coronavirus cases have now top 30 million globally. But a new survey out points to increasing skepticism around the efficacy of a potential vaccine, the Pew Research Center saying 78% of those they surveyed expressed concerns about the vaccine approval process.

Meantime, some news within the last hour or so. The CDC reversing its coronavirus guidance, saying that initially said people without symptoms may not need a test. Let's bring in our guest, Dr. Dara Kass. She is a Yahoo Medical Contributor, also a Columbia University Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Kass, it's great to have you on today.

You know, we were talking about the CDC's reversal there. This comes after that report that those guidelines that went out a few weeks ago were done even without the consultation of CDC scientists. And I'm just curious how damaging you think the politicization of this issue has been from a medical standpoint, medical experts like yourself trying to get the public on board with the science. How does all of this complicate things for you?

DARA KASS: Well, it makes it nearly impossible actually for us to message consistent guidance to the community while we have unfolding information. And I think the two pieces that you led in with are actually really integrated.

The idea that people do not have confidence in the process of approving a new vaccine for this virus is directly correlated to the fact that the White House and the administration have put their thumb on the guidance we've gotten for things as simple as, if you're exposed to the coronavirus, do you need to be tested? Something that was so absurd on its face-- the idea that you would not need to be tested if you were exposed-- that many governors and departments of public health and departments of health at state levels flatly rejected this guidance from the CDC when it came out.

And they said, we're not listening to this, because it makes no scientific sense. And now we know, based on reporting in "The New York Times," that that was actually valid concern, because that guidance didn't come from the CDC. It came from political appointees at HHS trying to decrease the amount of testing in the United States, which is against any guidance we've had since the beginning of this pandemic.

AKIKO FUJITA: So having said that, we've already seen this divide here-- those who are very skeptical to put it lightly, of the science that exists, who are against the mask-wearing as well. And then you've got the science side of things. I mean, what can the administration do at this point really to try and restore confidence in not only the development of the vaccine, but the science itself that's coming out right now?

DARA KASS: Honestly, I think there's going to be very little that this administration can do before the election that would refocus back on the science and restart instilling public trust. We are dealing with a rapid succession of decisions that were made for political reasons, not scientific reasons as we get closer and closer to this election.

What we would love to see is a uniformed mask mandate around the country heading into this election and into the vaccine trials being completed, focusing on decreasing the disease spread as we open up schools. And then once the science is ready, which really may be close to the election or even afterwards, starting then to evaluate the phase three clinical trials as they come to completion, but not before that.

AKIKO FUJITA: You pointed to the reopening that's happening. Certainly, a lot of states continuing to move forward with that process. Here in New York City, we did see the delay in the school reopenings. But indoor dining, for example, beginning at the end of this month.

We had a WHO official yesterday come out and talk about the concerns around quarantine fatigue in this thinking of six months. And certainly, a lot of people are getting a little loose with the restrictions. I mean, is the uptick in the virus cases, the case counts themselves, inevitable given that we're not going back to the days of a complete lockdown?

DARA KASS: No, it's not inevitable. I think that that idea that we're somehow so tired of this virus that whatever happens, happens is actually the wrong perspective. I think that mask-wearing works. Opening businesses that are respectful of the virus's limitations, which means we can't open bars right now as we try to open schools.

Keeping schools open at a low density model while supporting tracking and tracing and testing for students and staff is exactly what we should be investing in as a country. Mask-wearing will decrease the viral spread as we get towards a vaccine. But the idea that somehow we're so tired of this-- I mean, what the WHO said was that we can't have 14-day quarantines, because people don't respect them. So let's try seven-day quarantines, because somehow people follow them more likely.

And that's just very much like a give-up mentality. And I'm just not ready to give up. I think that we have too much stake to not address this virus head on.

We're not looking to see a doubling of the number of deaths in the next two months. That's just unacceptable to me.

AKIKO FUJITA: Doctor, you just talked about the concerns around the schools reopening. We had a guest in the previous hour saying there's a silent epidemic that's emerging, especially in K through 12 schools, with the resumption of in-person classes in some areas. Do you expect the case counts to jump as a result of these schools beginning in-person classes? And how significant a risk is there of these kids spreading the virus to their parents?

DARA KASS: Again, I think this really comes down to how well schools enforce mask-wearing on campus in the buildings. If we send our children to schools in low case count environments in communities that have a case spread of less than 5%, a positive test rate of less than 5%, and we really do, you know, enforce mask-wearing in schools, encourage distancing, and make sure that children are not in high-density environments, we really should not see the community spread amongst classmates. And therefore, the parents would only be at risk as much as their community spread outside of the classroom puts them at.

AKIKO FUJITA: OK. Dr. Dara Kass there, joining us from Columbia University. She's an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine. Thanks so much for your time.

DARA KASS: Thank you so much for having me.