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Trump to hold rally, skip virtual debate next week

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi recap the Vice Presidential debate, and discuss election and COVID-19 outlook with Dr. Howard Koh, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health Professor.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: The coronavirus played a lead role in last night's vice presidential debate. VP Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris battled it out over the Trump administration's response to the virus.

KAMALA HARRIS: Whatever the vice president is claiming the administration has done, clearly it hasn't worked. When you're looking at over 210,000 dead bodies in our country, American lives that have been lost, families that are grieving that loss. And, you know, the vice president is the head of the task force and knew on January 28 how serious this was.

MIKE PENCE: There's not a day gone by that I haven't thought of every American family that's lost a loved one. And I want all of you to know that you'll always be in our hearts and in our prayers. But when you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn't worked, that's a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: With us now is Dr. Howard Koh. He's a professor at Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health and a former assistant secretary at HHS. Dr. Koh, always good to see you. So, you know, did you learn anything new? Did the American people learn anything new last night about how Joe Biden and his administration might tackle the pandemic if he wins the White House?

HOWARD KOH: Well, Alexis, we have so many ongoing streams of activity right now with respect to COVID. Nationally, we have 7.5 million cases soon and close to one quarter million deaths coming up. And then we have, of course, this outbreak in the White House, which is engulfing all of government.

And then we have the situation, of course, with the president only six days into his treatment. So all this together leads to a very complicated story. We don't appear to have an end in sight, and then we have flu season upon us as well. So we need to tackle this virus and get it under control because we have a health crisis, we have a business crisis, we have a school crisis.

And now we have a crisis potentially affecting our national security. And we need a one government unified strategy going forward.

BRIAN SOZZI: Doctor, help viewers clear this up and help their understanding. The president said he thinks he was cured potentially by taking Regeneron. What is Regeneron, and is there any indication that Regeneron is a cure for COVID?

HOWARD KOH: Well, that's a very important question. First and foremost, the president has had multiple treatments here. So it's really impossible to tell which one of them is making him feel better. We're all heartened that he's clinically feeling better, but he is still early in the course of a potentially life-threatening disease. So that's critically important to know.

The other two treatments he got, remdesivir and the dexamethasone, have been very well-studied, particularly dexamethasone, because that's been shown to reduce mortality, and that's been very well-studied and published in top journals and peer review. But for the Regeneron monoclonal antibody cocktail, it's experimental. The president got this treatment outside of a clinical trial in what's called a compassionate use situation, and in fact, less than 10 people in the world have gotten it under those circumstances.

So it's really impossible to know if that antibody cocktail helped him or not. So as we move forward and have more scientific interest on the monoclonal antibody cocktails, whether it's from Regeneron or Eli Lilly, we need the best science going forward. It does concern me a bit that what we know about the monoclonal antibody cocktail so far has come from press releases from those pharmaceutical companies.

So we need much more science outside expert analysis and then ultimately, a publication in top journals in order to prove that it's lifesaving.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And in fact, the CEO of Regeneron has come out publicly and said it's not ready for wide use just yet. I want to get to some of the comments President Trump made just this morning. He said he might be immune to COVID-19 now. He thinks he doesn't-- he thinks he's not contagious anymore.

His campaign is now planning a rally next week in lieu of this virtual debate that the commission wants to have. President Trump says he won't participate in that. What would your advice be to the White House about next week's rally?

HOWARD KOH: Well, Alexis, everybody needs to know what the CDC guidelines are and follow them. So the CDC says, for mild and moderate COVID, it's important that people who are infected are isolated for 10 days plus 24 hours after their symptoms are gone and their temperature returns to normal. The president hasn't approached that 10-day mark yet.

And in fact, he may qualify as having severe COVID, in fact. That's the indication for getting dexamethasone, which he received last weekend. So we could go into next week where he's still contagious. And it's really important for him to take care of himself, to stay isolated, get the best medical care, and be very, very careful about projecting where we're going to be next week.

I think, with respect to the debate, the discussion about whether it should be a virtual or not is really important. And as you know better than anyone, Alexis and Brian, that has to be accepted by both sides, in terms of conditions, about how to go forward.

BRIAN SOZZI: Doctor, since the last time we saw you, infections and deaths related to COVID have only continued to rise. Do you think locking down broader swaths of the economy, the US economy, would make sense?

HOWARD KOH: Well, Brian, that's a really important question. No one wants to do that. But having said that, you know, we are seeing, as you've noted, these infections persist. And we're not seeing indications of the curves going down. In fact, we've been at some 45,000 cases a day for several months now.

So all options are on the table. And we have to advance public health and science and get this pandemic behind us. It's a month nine and counting, and we are still very much in a protracted first wave. And this is with a flu season now coming upon us as well. So we have to be really careful and cautious and keep all the options on the table.