What We’re Reading: Optimism From NIH Director; Finding, Trusting COVID-19 Info; Alarm in Alaska

October 21, 2020
AJMC Staff

The director of the National Institutes of Health speaks out on his prediction for vaccine approval; Americans are having difficulty finding and trusting coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) information; pandemic-related trends in Alaska are on the rise.

NIH’s Collins Expresses Optimism, Reiterates Need for Caution Amid Pandemic

In an interview with NPR, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated he is “guardedly optimistic” about having at least 1 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine approved by year-end, possibly late November. The prediction comes despite 2 trials on hold—Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly—which he reiterates is a good thing because it means investigators are ensuring vaccine safety. He also warned that with cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations from the disease on the rise, fatalities are predicted to increase as well. We must continue to wear our masks, social distance, and refrain from indoor social gatherings, he added, because “the virus is not tired of us.”

Who and Where Do Americans Look to, Trust for Reliable COVID-19 Information?

The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research notes that fewer than 20% of Americans, from a joint online and telephone survey of 1043 adults, trust the news media as their go-to reliable source for all things COVID-19–related, despite using that source daily. They instead prefer to get this information from their health care providers and federal health officials, despite fewer than 25% doing this on a regular basis, 43% having difficulty locating pandemic-related information, and 37% noting greater difficulty tracking down factual, reliable information compared with a few months ago.

Winter Months Put Alaska at an Increased Disadvantage

Although Alaska’s size, combined with increased opportunities for isolation, worked to its advantage in the summer months of the pandemic, according to The New York Times, now that winter is setting in, case clusters are emerging. Experts, including Anne Zink, MD, Alaska’s chief medical officer, are warning that this early activity in the winter months is a sign of things to come for the entire United States. The state’s once-lauded contract tracing system, too, is now facing difficulty keeping up with the virus’ surge, in that the state that used to be a testing leader is now 1 of 36 “far below the target,” with the average daily positivity rate at 4.25% for the past week.