Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen
As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to spread, everyone is overwhelmed. Hospitals are seeing an influx of infected patients, governments are forcing their citizens to stay inside, and the general outlook is uncertain. But there is some good news emerging in the midst of this crisis. Here are 8 positive developments in the COVID-19 situation from around the world.
1. Researchers tested the first COVID-19 vaccine on a U.S. volunteer
In Seattle, scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute injected a healthy participant with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. Study leaders are testing the vaccine, codenamed mRNA-1237, on 45 volunteers who will receive two doses over the course of two months.
“We’re team coronavirus now,” study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson said in a statement. “Everyone wants to do what they can in this emergency.”
2. Alcohol distilleries around the U.S. are manufacturing hand sanitizer and giving it away to those in need
Some distilleries are making the switch from liquor to hand sanitizer. Due to the current situation, the price of hand sanitizer has skyrocketed. Although soap and water is a more effective defense against COVID-19, hand sanitizer is still a necessity for many, especially those who need an on-the-go method to clean their hands.
Jeremy Elliott, co-owner of Smugglers’ Notch Distillery in Vermont, plans to produce a low-cost hand sanitizer, using the distillery’s stock of high-proof alcohol–and donate some of his profits to local Vermont virus-fighting efforts. “I know I have a unique opportunity to help out a little bit and keep my staff employed,” said Elliott.
3. Air pollution rates are going down because of quarantines
Due to mass shutdowns of factories, power plants, and other businesses, air pollution levels around the world have dramatically decreased–especially in China, notorious for its emissions. NASA recently released new images showcasing nitrogen dioxide levels in the air before and after the shutdowns, and analysts reported that COVID-19 has reduced CO2 emissions in China by over a quarter–close to 200 million tons. Hopefully, after the virus runs its course, emissions will remain at these levels.
4. COVID-19 infection rates are declining in South Korea
According to Reuters, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 110 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, March 13, 2020. A day earlier, they had reported 114. On March 17, they only had 94, a good sign that their epidemic is slowing down. However, a new cluster of cases recently emerged, ending the 11-day trend of declining rates. Even so, due to strict government policies, Korea’s COVID-19 casualty rate is one of the lowest in the world–only 1 percent.
5. Johns Hopkins researchers are using antibodies from COVID-19 survivors as a potential treatment
Johns Hopkins immunologist Arturo Casadevall is working on a potential COVID-19 solution — using antibodies from the blood plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19. Casadevall hopes the antibodies, when injected into patients, will boost their immune systems and lower their chances of contracting the virus.
“Deployment of this option requires no research or development,” Casadevall said. “It could be deployed within a couple of weeks since it relies on standard blood-banking practices.”
6. Parks and tourist attractions reopening in China as the country recovers from the COVID-19 epidemic
China’s National Health Commission said the COVID-19 outbreak has passed its peak, which surpassed 15,000 cases on February 12, 2020. Now, China is cautiously reopening museums, parks, and other tourist attractions. Measures are still in place to combat potential infections, though. Those who visit any tourist attractions must have their temperatures checked upon arrival and put on a face mask upon entering. Authorities are also limiting the number of visitors to avoid overcrowding.
7. Researchers in Australia are testing two different drugs as potential COVID-19 cures
David Paterson, University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research director, is testing two drugs used to treat other illnesses on COVID-19 patients. According to Paterson, a patient has completely recovered from the virus after being dosed with one of the drugs. It’s not clear which of the two drugs–an HIV medication or an anti-malaria pill–has resulted in the patient’s miraculous recovery, but both substances are showing promising results.
8. A critically ill Chinese woman infected with COVID-19 has made a complete recovery after being treated with stem cell therapy
A 65-year-old woman infected with COVID-19, who was in the intensive care unit at Kunming hospital, made a “startling recovery” after being injected with stem cells from an umbilical cord. The woman, who suffered from type 2 diabetes, was admitted to the hospital after showing symptoms of COVID-19. She was put on oxygen due to breathing problems, and her condition quickly deteriorated.
After the patient’s organs started to fail, doctors–after consulting the woman’s family–decided to treat her with an experimental stem cell therapy. The patient was given three shots in total. The first was administered on February 9, 2020. After she responded well to the initial shot, doctors gave her two more; one shot on the 13th and the other, final shot on the 15th. Two days after the last dose, the woman left the intensive care unit, her vital signs returned to normal, and after being tested again for COVID-19, she came back negative.
These news stories are a beacon of hope during these trying times, and if we’re lucky, we’ll see more of them in the coming weeks.