The U.S. response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been
deficient, especially in terms of testing and societal buy-in for face
coverings, experts said during an online summit Wednesday hosted by Carnival
Corp. and the World Travel and Tourism Council.
More than 17,000 people listened to the Global Scientific
Summit on Covid-19 as Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald and WTTC CEO Gloria
Guevara moderated three panels with speakers that included experts from
Stanford, Harvard, the Mayo Clinic and other universities and institutes.
The most common theme throughout was the need for everyone
to wear a mask and avoid crowds, and the importance of better and more frequent
testing in the U.S.
Donald and Guevara purposefully avoided specific travel or
cruise-related questions, with both wanting to stick to “just the science,”
Dr. Stuart Schreiber, professor of chemistry and chemical
biology at Harvard University and co-founder of the Broad Institute, said the
U.S. lacks an “overarching and well-thought-out national policy.”
Top: Dr. Thomas Cahill, founder of Newpath Management. Bottom: Harvard University professor Dr. Stuart Schreiber.
“If we need to undergo another lockdown, then shame on us,”
Schreiber said. “This would be a failure of testing.”
Schreiber said that if asymptomatic people are tested and
those who test positive are quarantined for 10 to 14 days, the virus would
“We do believe we could burn out the virus in the absence of
a vaccine,” he said, but Schreiber added that “compliance in the U.S. is not
high. Even if we were to do this, we’d have a risk of failing because we have a
lack of compliance.
“What we’re doing is woefully inadequate,” he said.
Comparing our response to those of other nations, “clearly
there are things we can do better as a country,” said Dr. Michael Lin,
associate professor of neurobiology, bioengineering and chemical and systems
biology at Stanford University. “We need to do more testing, be smarter about
the testing, and be more compliant with very simple public health measure such
as the wearing of face coverings.
“In the U.S., we didn’t shut down as effectively as Europe,”
he added. “Philosophically, America is different. In Italy, armed military
police prevented people from gathering outdoors. We’re loathe to do that in the
U.S. Our shutdown didn't reach the same level of effectiveness.”
He added that South Korea and Japan, where there is
extensive use of masks and careful contact tracing, have mitigated the spread
better than the U.S.
“All of these things matter, and as a society we can still
improve on all of these things,” he said. “We see the effect of not taking it
as seriously as other countries have.”
Lin was among many of the experts who said that “personal
responsibility is still key.”
“The virus can be defeated by personal actions alone, but
testing will be a big aid in terms of speeding up the process to keeping the
virus at a lower level,” he said. “Wearing masks reduces the risk by 80% to 96%.
In theory, if everyone wore a mask for two weeks, this epidemic would end.”
When Donald asked the panelists what they would and would
not feel comfortable doing right now, bars surfaced as a big no-no, in part
because people tend to speak loudly.
The beach, Lin said, is one of safest activities, if groups
stay more than 10 feet from each other, and especially if they wear masks.