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Trump unveils vaccine effort, says country will be back on its feet with or without one

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Trump revealed the newest plans to develop vaccine, but later said the country will make a comeback with or without it. Board Certified Specialist in Preventive Medicine & Public Health Dr. David Katz joins Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith to discuss.

Video Transcript

- Sure, you're welcome.

SEANA SMITH: I want to turn to the latest with coronavirus. The CDC releasing a set of documents to provide guidance on how states should reopen their economies. Now, this includes the plans with the plans should be for schools, child care centers, and also restaurants, amongst other things as well. So for more on this, I want to bring in Dr. David Katz, board certified specialist in preventative medicine and public health.

And Dr. Katz, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today. Let's start with the CDC's road map. I guess from your perspective, it's not as detailed as what we initially were told that was put forth in front of the White House. So do you think that this report is detailed enough? And what do you think the US's response to the outbreak so far?

DAVID KATZ: Well, Seana, it's not comprehensive in its own right. What CDC is telling businesses, schools, universities is, first and foremost, you have to comply with governmental regulations. And nobody knows what the governmental regulations are. We don't have clear federal guidance. Question is, will it be state by state? If so, a lot of the governors and states haven't yet determined their policies.

The general idea, though, that there would be high-level architecture to our policy responses to COVID getting back to some degree of normalcy, opening things back up in a safe way that that would begin with government within that governmental framework that there would be the latitude of determining, how can you best comply that's left to businesses-- left to schools-- left to universities?

I like that, because I think the what should come from essentially a unified group of experts representing government. But the how is best handled locally. In public health, we say think globally, act locally. So those actions I think should allow for some latitude. But I think there's a third piece as well. So we've got the high-level guidance from government.

We've got the CDC guidelines for how individual entities in the economy can comply. And then I think we ought to empower individuals. I think we ought to do individual risk quantification. I'm aware that such tools are being developed. You could enter your personal data and translate that into your personal risk of if I get this, what's the likelihood of getting hospitalized or winding up in the ICU or dying?

I think you deserve to know that. And then I think that information should be translated into here are recommended practices given your personal risk group. And here are things you can do to lower your risk group. Now, some of that can't be changed like your chronological age. But a lot of what drives up risk for bad outcomes in COVID is fixable stuff. It's cardiometabolic risk factors we know how to fix with lifestyle. And I think there's a whole new opportunity to do that-- improve the nation's health for the long term while addressing the acute concern about risks for COVID.

SEANA SMITH: Dr. Katz, do we have the ability to do that at this point? Do we have the resources in order to make that a viable option?

DAVID KATZ: Well, you know, I think a lot of entities that are covered by the CDC guidance do have the necessary resources. There really isn't a tremendous dependence on things we don't have, like protective equipment and so forth, in the lower risk groups. And if we think about-- and this, Seana, is what I've been advocating for from the start, a risk-based approach. COVID is not a one-size-fits-all threat.

I've been to the frontlines volunteering in a New York City hospital. I've seen it up close. It's a really bad disease for people in nursing homes. It's a really bad disease routinely for elderly people and for people with chronic disease. More often than not, it's a very mild disease in young healthy people, not all the time, but often.

So we, I think, can go much further with the resources we have, whether you're talking about personal protective equipment, or you're talking about testing resources, if we concentrate them on those populations that most need protection. I think, for example, we should be doing a far better job protecting nursing homes. In my home state of Connecticut, 60% of the total mortality from COVID comes from nursing homes. And that's a tiny fraction of the total population.

Meticulous protection of nursing homes would reduce the mortality of the infection in my state by more than half. So if we concentrate resources where the most needed, yes, I think we do have enough. But we have to start thinking that way, maximizing the utility of the resources we have.

SEANA SMITH: And by doing that, would that consist of more testing in the nursing centers? Would that consist of supplying them with more of the PPE equipment that they could need? I guess how do you see-- what's the best way of going about that?

DAVID KATZ: Yeah, I mean, the easy answer is yes to all of the above. But essentially, we ought to be testing routinely. We ought to be monitoring for early signs of illness. We ought to be testing everybody who goes to a nursing home providing services there. Ideally we should be testing routinely for antibodies among people who go there. We also can identify people who've recovered from this illness.

One of the ways to combine benefit to the economy and epidemiology is to identify people who can't transmit the virus and see if they're available to essentially do jobs among the people most vulnerable who can't be exposed. So I think there are lots of different ways that we could do a better job.

We also could potentially create using idle hotels-- places where people servicing nursing homes stay so they have no risk of getting exposed themselves so they can't transmit the virus into the nursing home. And that could continue until we get to a point where at the community level, we have near zero transmission and herd immunity. So it's a lengthy nuanced answer in all of its particulars.

But the general answer is yes to the kinds of things you're suggesting-- more testing concentrated in the most vulnerable population, more careful attention to social distancing, use of PPE there, careful oversight of the people providing good services and populating the supply chains that go there making sure that they're safe. Doubling down on that, slashing the demand on hospitals. Slashing the mortality risk while allowing lower-risk people to get closer to life as we knew it before.

SEANA SMITH: Dr. Katz, testing. I want to drill down into that because that's been an issue that we have heard time and time again from the doctors we've had on this show. It's an issue that you have brought up a couple of times during this interview. So I want to get your thoughts on this latest headline that we got out from testing. And that was the fact that the FDA issued the warning about accuracy pertaining to Abbott's rapid coronavirus test, saying that the study had found that there was a study that found that there were false negatives.

This obviously raises an issue of capability and where we are as a nation just in terms of the testing. So I guess what do you think about that? What kind of challenges-- challenges this raise? And also, when do you expect us to be at the point where we are testing enough of the population in order to reopen safely?

DAVID KATZ: Yeah, so two separate issues. Let's start with the second one. How much data do we need? One of the things we keep hearing is that we need to test millions of people. We're a very long way from having millions of test kits. And therefore, it's a catch-22. We need data we can't get. We can't get the data we need. And therefore, what-- throw up our hands-- doesn't make sense.

We are accustomed to extrapolating to the population using representative random samples. It's something the CDC does routinely. With 30,000 tests, 40,000 tests, 50,000 tests-- a very manageable number-- we have the kits to do that in the right sample. So spanning urban suburban, rural, all zip codes, all age groups, all health status-- we could extrapolate to the population. I call it a data pyramid.

How many have been infected? How many are immune from that group? How many need medical care? How many get hospitalized? How many need the ICU? How many get a ventilator? How many die? You build that data pyramid. You extrapolate to the population, and we stop flying through a dense fog. We do not need millions of tests.

On the issue of whether or not we've got test that work, it's pretty clear that some countries do, that some tests available in the world today work. And I don't understand why there isn't a dedicated federal panel answering to the government, multidisciplinary experts reviewing test availability from all around the world identifying the ones that give the best answers most reliably the quickest at the lowest cost and sourcing those.

So, you know, frankly, at some point, everything comes back to we really do need grownups in charge of all this. And the combination of this incredibly demanding public health crisis and a lack of cogency and clarity and clear mindedness at the level of our federal leadership is a huge problem. So yes, it's rate limiting. It's a totally fixable problem. We just need the will to fix it.

SEANA SMITH: All right, Dr. David Katz, board certified specialist in preventive medicine and public health. Thanks so much for your ideas and for joining the show today.

DAVID KATZ: Thanks, Seana.