After the lockdown, what next? When infection rates zoom upward, lockdowns may offer the fastest way to stem the tide. At the same time, as a psychologist I am acutely aware of the mental health costs—anxiety, depression, addiction, domestic abuse, suicides, and more—not to mention the economic costs, of keeping folks at home. These deleterious side-effects make it essential to conclude this intervention as quickly as possible. The three-pronged strategy I suggest below offers a next option, a plan in which the government switches from controlling people via stay-at-home and contact tracing to killing the virus.
The key: acceleration by the government of manufacture and distribution of the products of Israeli inventiveness.
Kill the virus with early and widespread administration of innovative medications
When my adult daughter contracted COVID, the medical advice was simply rest and aspirin. Here’s at least five Made-In-Israel COVID-treatments that I would have liked to seen administered to her early on, much like the way President Trump received early treatment for his COVID episode. Early intervention to kill the virus and/or prevent virus reproduction can prevent long-term side effects, decrease the likilihood of mild episodes become more severe, necessitate fewer hospitalizations, and speed up healing.
Imagine if the government were to focus on finding ways to accelerate the development, testing, manufacture and distribution of these promising treatments:
- Antibody therapies—like Regeneron, as touted by President Trump—show significant potential. Kamada is an Israeli company which has long manufactured an antibody treatment for rabies has been modifying its product to treat the coronavirus. Other groups here in Israel are testing antibody strategies as well. Natalia Freund of Tel Aviv University reports on one startegy. Researchers at Hadassah have yet another.
- Choloesterol lowering drugs—Nahmias and tenOever of Hadassah Hospital in Israel and Mt Sinai in New York began to screen FDA-approved medications that interfere with the virus’ ability to reproduce. In lab studies, the long-familiar cholesterol-lowering drug Fenofibrate (Tricor) showed extremely promising results. In initial trials, within five days of treatment, the virus almost completely disappeared, If these findings are borne out by further clinical studies, this course of treatment could potentially downgrade Covid-19’s severity into nothing worse than a common cold.
- Cinnamon appears to have a component that prevents the covid-19 virus from doing any damage. An Israeli company called Q Rona is turning the ingredient into sugar-free lozenges that can be used, hopefully, both for COVID prevention and treatment. Early tests look promising for efficacy with no significant side effects. The lozenges would be inexpensive, costing less than a dime each to produce, and do not need FDA drug approval as they are considered a food supplement rather than medication. Q Rona is poised for further clinical testing and then to go quicklly into production as soon as they have obtained further funding. What if the government were to invest in something that tastes like candy yet may be able to save us all from the COVID plague?
- Radiation: Prof. Zvi Symon of the Radiation Oncology Department at Sheba Medical Center in Israel reports excellent results in tests of treating Covid with low dose radiation therapy. The protocol calls for about 1/70th or 1/100th of the dose used to treat cancer. Dr. Symon, who has been administrating this new use of a long-established cancer treatment under the compassionate use umbrella, reports that, “Patients who received radiation … got off oxygen and could breathe well in three to four days, whereas patients that did not receive the radiation took an average 12 days after pneumonia.” Symon added that the treatment needs to be given at the right time—at the start of acute symptoms, before overwhelming multi-organ damage.
- Sunshine: Open those beaches and swimming pools! Levels of Vitamin D differentiate between mild and severe COVID cases. A government-led public education campaign—Ba-oo Bahutz BaShemish, Go Outside Into the Sunshine—could easily convince Israelis to get more sun for both prevention and treatment of COVID. Half an hour a day outdoors for everyone might potentially cut dramatically the number of cases that end up needing hospital treatment. Let’s take advantage of Israel’s sunny climate, quickly, before the rainy season begins.
Kill the virus with anti-viral masks.
Scientists by now have determined that the main mode of COVID-19 transmission is through the air. Both larger droplets and tiny aerosol particles get emitted when people breathe. More are emitted when they talk. More with singing or shouting, and, perhaps the worst, coughing or sneezing. And while the larger droplets fall relatively soon to the ground, the lighter-weight aerosols can hang in the air for hours. Masks matter.
Anti-viral masks go beyond blocking viruses to killing them. And when you remove the mask from your face, your hands and the mask itself are not going to spread live viruses.
What if the Israeli government were to distribute, or at least encourage mass production, of the anti-viral masks that have already been created here in Israel? .
During the Iraq SCUD missile crisis, the government facilitated the manufacture and distribution of gas masks. Compared to gas masks, anti-viral face masks are relatively inexpensive. They can be washed easily and reused again and again. Unlike commonly-used disposable surgical masks, they create no ecological disasters from excessive waste.
One caveat: all masks work best when used correctly. They need to cover both your nose and your mouth. Covid that enters through your nose gets stimulated to reproduce by the moist tissues in your nose. Worse, the viruses that enter through your nose can then head straight for your lungs. And remember, one sudden sneeze when you are wearing a mask under your nose can infect everyone around you.
Quickly identify people who have been infected by viruses.
Instead of relying on laborious, expensive, and inaccurate contact tracing to cut the chain of infection, accelerate the development of ‘faster, cheaper, more accurate testing options for targeting virus carriers. Imagine how quickly the COVID virus could be killed off with rapid screening devices that take not days or even minutes. but just seconds to identify infected persons . Post testers at all entryways through which multiple people pass: schools (no more capsules!), large stores, malls, office buildings, train and bus stations, airports, hospitals, factories, sporting and cultural events.
Any and all of the following devices merit serious fast-tracking:
1. Israeli Newsight Imaging, partnering with Sheba Medical Center outside of Tel Aviv, is seeking regulatory approval for a new saliva test for COVID-19. The test involves rinsing your mouth with a saline wash then spitting into a vial. A small spectral device shines light on this specimen and analyses the reaction to see if it is consistent with COVID-19. Each test costs less than 25 cents; the device will eventually cost less than $200. Results are clear in less than one second.
2. ANC Sensors has developed a three- to five-second biometric screening technology that can identify individuals with Coronavirus symptoms within 5 feet. Their sensors measure not only body temperature, but also pulse/heart rate, breathing anomalies, chills and oxygen saturation and with this data can quickly spot the patterns characteristic of COVID-19. The next-generation product will add sensors for chest palpations, liquid in the throat and lungs, glucose sodium, sweat, and red and white blood cell count. Patients found to be positive in this initial screening will be asked to undergo a further rapid diagnostic test.
3. .Nanose Medical, another Israeli company, has created a COVID breath test that uses nanotechnology to identify compounds that are present in the breath of coronavirus patients. In clinical trials in Wuhan, China, this test effectively identified COVID, distinguishing it even from other lung diseases. Once the test devices, which are about the size of a smartphone, are being commercially produced—hopefully within approximately six months—they will cost only approximately $2 to $3 per person. The breath test will take just two to three seconds to administer and giving results within 30 seconds. In addition, no workers need to touch the patient or handle their sample, which is good both for efficiency and for hygiene.
4. Researchers from India and Israel have been teaming up to test a voice-based virus test. as well as several other easy-to-do and fast-result technologies. They promise more info on these will be coming within days.
Lockdowns, like tourniquets, are appropriate in emergency situations. Israel’s second-surge COVID lockdown has succeeded in slowing the skyrocketing/hemorrhaging infection rates.
What next? Now the Israeli government needs to take advantage of Israel’s culture of innovation by focusing on ways to fast-track investment, clinical research, manufacturing, and distribution of new tecnologies for killing COVID viruses:
1) virus-killing treatment interventions,
2) masks that annihilate viruses as well as block them, and
3) mass public testing that pinpoints virus infections.
In the Middle Ages, quarantine was the best people could do to combat a plague. With modern and mostly-Israeli-invented technology, now we can and must do better.