Texas health expert: Coronavirus pandemic involves five phases

Published 12:43 am Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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By Roz Brown

Texas News Service

AUSTIN, Texas — If you’re having trouble getting your head around what part of the coronavirus pandemic we’re in, a Texas public-health expert says it can be broken into five phases.

Gerald Parker directs the Bush School’s biosecurity and pandemic public policy program at Texas A&M. He said we’ve transitioned from the first phase of containment to mitigation – or slowing the spread of COVID-19 – what he calls phase two. Next comes phase three, a second stage of containment while a vaccine is readied.

He said until a vaccine is ready, he is optimistic therapeutics can help those who become severely ill.

“We have to be much more aggressive,” Parker said. “We’re going to have to provide our public-health authorities with new resources, more human resources. And we’re going to have to provide our public-health authorities with new technologies as well.”

Parker said he expects a vaccine to be available in 15-18 months, but cautions that health officials cannot shortcut safety in its development.

In his view, phase four involves another stage of containment once a vaccine is developed. And the fifth stage would involve preparations for the next pandemic at a national security level.

Parker said we need to think about COVID-19 in the long term, because the virus is not likely to go away.

“We’re going to have to potentially deal with the reality that we may have seasonal upticks in COVID-19 in the future,” he said. “But I think that we can get that to a place that we can manage it if we have a vaccine.”

Parker said he believes the country should be reopened by employing what he calls “surgically-implemented” mitigation measures. He said the lockdown cannot continue indefinitely because of its impact on the economy as well as the physical and mental health of the larger society.