Conventional wisdom holds that a vaccine won’t be ready by then, but some are holding out hope. Moderna has received approval for phase 2 testing of its vaccine and is hoping to enter the final phase 3 testing by the end of the summer. Pfizer, Inovio, and other companies around the world are also doing human testing, and most of the companies are making vaccine manufacturing preparations even before their products have received a green light from the FDA. Pfizer, in fact, is counting on its Andover facility to play a critical role in its manufacturing buildup.
If the vaccine isn’t ready when and if the coronavirus returns (and keep in mind it hasn’t really subsided yet, at least in Massachusetts), some are looking to antibody testing as a way to prepare or at least cope.
Antibody, or serology, testing attempts to measure the level of antibodies to the coronavirus in people. The existence of antibodies is an indicator of previous infection and may be an indicator of future immunity, but that’s far from certain. A large number of people have recovered from the disease and a potentially large number may have been infected and not known it. Some speculate that widespread antibody testing may reveal that so many people have been infected with the virus that the state as a whole could have developed or may be nearing herd immunity.
There are a lot of unknowns with antibody testing. Gov. Charlie Baker dismissed the idea of statewide antibody testing last week and has repeatedly urged federal regulators to develop some consensus around a reliable test. “I think a test that up to a third of the time is wrong is not very helpful,” said Baker.
Even so, researchers are moving full steam ahead on antibody testing. State officials are willing to collaborate, but not provide funding, according to a Department of Public Health spokesperson.
Serology testing “is very important for understanding the epidemiology of COVID,” said Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the DPH. “We are working with researchers to look at population immunity to COVID and expect to be involved in a number of studies.”
Massachusetts General Hospital is conducting an antibody study for the Boston Public Health Commission of 1,000 randomly-selected residents from Roslindale, East Boston, and parts of Dorchester. Brookline is also conducting random antibody testing.
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu recently tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies despite never exhibiting symptoms, which means she presumably was infected with the virus without knowing that.
The big question is whether the existence of antibodies means a person is immune to the novel coronavirus.
“There’s no proof that having the antibodies means that you are either protected from getting reinfected or that you are not capable of transmitting the virus if you still have it to other people,” said Dr. David Walt, professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School.
It would have huge, negative public health implications if it turns out people can still spread the disease after they’ve recovered, says NPR’s Richard Harris. Studies from China and South Korea seemed to suggest this is possible.
As golf courses reopen with a bunch of restrictions, Gov. Charlie Baker says data will dictate when and what will reopen across the state. (CommonWealth) Golfers begin returning to the courses. (Eagle-Tribune)
Virus notes:: Baker says one of the keys to reopening is a contact tracing effort that relies on people picking up their phone when contact tracers call….Baker also says he intends to test all state prison inmates for coronavirus…The pace of unemployment insurance claims slows but the numbers continue to mount. (CommonWealth)
Fiscal watchdogs say there may need to be cuts to state and municipal payrolls. (Boston Herald)
A hair salon in Gov. Charlie Baker’s hometown of Swampscott is closed and fined for remaining open despite the governor’s shutdown of nonessential businesses. (Daily Item)
The Framingham School Committee votes to refund a portion of fees for services (bus/preschool) that were never provided because of the coronavirus. (MetroWest Daily News)
The Standard-Times offers a peek into what life is like for Damon Chaplin, who runs New Bedford’s Health Department’s COVID-response team.
In sharp contrast with information coming out of New York, Dr. Jarone Lee of Massachusetts General Hospital says preliminary data indicate a much lower mortality rate for people going on ventilators. (CommonWealth)
The largest study to date of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, touted by President Trump as a potential “game-changer” in treating coronavirus, showed no apparent benefit. (CommonWealth)
State officials and hospital leaders are figuring out a system for distributing the experimental treatment remdesivir after puzzling federal guidelines were issued. (Boston Globe)
The death of an East Boston man devastates his partner and is a window into how coronavirus is ravaging poor, immigrant communities. (Washington Post)
The Life Care Center of Auburn reports that 91 residents tested positive for COVID-19, indicating the continuing toll the virus is taking in long-term care facilities. (Telegram & Gazette)
The Justice Department dropped its case against President Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI. (New York Times)
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is allowing many but not all non-essential businesses to reopen on Saturday. Still closed are hair salons, barber shops, and fitness centers. (Providence Journal)
House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Richard Neal says the next round of federal stimulus funding should support the local media. It could also include more individual stimulus checks, potentially with aid to cover dependent children who are in college. (MassLive)
Republican US Senate candidate Kevin O’Connor, citing his support for economic freedom and small businesses, says he is ready to take on “career politicians” Ed Markey or Joe Kennedy in the November general election. (Eagle-Tribune)
Unemployment benefits are now so generous that some unemployed workers may not look to return to their jobs. (Gloucester Daily Times)
Needham-based TripAdvisor furloughs 850 employees after laying off 900. (Boston Business Journal)
Citing financial losses because of the pandemic, Cape Cod Healthcare’s president and CEO, Michael Lauf, announced more than 10 percent of the workforce will be furloughed for at least a month. (Cape Cod Times)
Six Flags New England will require all guests to make online reservations once it opens this summer. (MassLive)
Worcester teachers and students are frustrated with how remote learning is going. (Telegram & Gazette)
Quincy administrators discussed possible alternatives at a school committee meeting after ideas for a virtual graduation drew backlash from parents and students. (Patriot Ledger)
Most colleges aren’t ready for online learning. (Boston Globe)
A new artist relief initiative intended to help artists of color living along the Fairmount Cultural Corridor in Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, and Hyde Park is now accepting applications for grants. (Dorchester Reporter)
Lots of uncertainty surrounds the issue of MBTA service levels as companies try to plan for some type of reopening of offices and other workplaces. (Boston Globe)
Seattle is permanently closing 20 miles of streets to most vehicles to promote more pedestrian and bicycle use. (Seattle Times)
Edward M. Murphy says Massachusetts could lead in fusion research if the state got behind the technology the way it did life sciences. (CommonWealth)
Furloughed workers at MGM Springfield could lose their jobs permanently if there’s not a quick casino recovery. (Boston Globe)
US District Court Judge William Young orders all immigration detainees and staff to be tested at the Bristol County Jail, prompting a sharp retort from Sheriff Thomas Hodgson and a call for a stay of the order. (CommonWealth)
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins backtracks on her aggressive attack on privileged court-appointed attorneys, and now says she (and presumably others in her office) were only expressing sympathy for a caller to a talk show that was having difficulty contacting his lawyer. (WBUR) Former Suffolk County Sheriff and former Secretary of Public Safety Andrea Cabral weighs in. (WGBH)
The police filed a criminal complaint against the pastor of Adams Street Baptist Church in Worcester, who continues to defy Gov. Charlie Baker’s orders to remain closed. (Telegram & Gazette)
The Supreme Judicial Court is trying to decide whether it has the legal authority to order various executive branch agencies to release convicted prison inmates. (WBUR)
A federal judge, citing the Second Amendment, overruled a Baker administration order and said gun shops in the state can reopen. (Boston Globe)