How well is North Dakota handling the coronavirus pandemic? And why should North Dakotans have confidence in a COVID-19 vaccine once it reaches the market?
KX News had the rare opportunity to present these questions and more to a member of President Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force.
Dr. John Fleming is a Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House and an Assistant to the President for Planning and Implementation.
He said North Dakota remains in “the yellow zone” in the eyes of the White House — “which is between 5 and 10 percent positivity rates,” Dr. Fleming says. “Your death rates are only two per 100,000. So really, North Dakota, while you are seeing a bit of a spike right now relative to what’s been going on in past months, you’re doing relatively well.”
“What we recommend is that you get word out to the public to observe the important three Ws — that is, wash your hands, wear a face mask, and certainly watch your distance,” he continued. “And be especially careful about those who are vulnerable: the elderly, people with co-morbid conditions, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, et cetera. And really, those numbers should come down just fine.”
We also asked Dr. Fleming why North Dakotans should feel confident that a COVID-19 vaccine will be safe to take, considering the speed at which it is being developed and concerns by some that politicians are putting pressure on drug companies to rush the process.
He said the accelerated timeline is a result of developing “testing while we’re developing.”
“We’ve simply done things simultaneously, so we’re actually manufacturing the vaccine while we’re developing it, so that, as soon as its proven to be safe and effective, we can distribute it immediately to the American people,” Dr. Fleming said.
He also sought to reassure viewers that politicians are not influencing the development of the vaccine. “We also have several committees, like the safety and data committee, that are not affected in any way by political influence. They have no financial gain; they have no political gain. They have to sign off on it. The FDA, with its career scientists — they have to sign on it. Many have to sign off on these before they can be distributed to the general public. So while the President has put billions and billions of dollars behind this effort to remove a lot of red tape, we’ve not cut any corners.”