CDC chief medical officer speaks exclusively to CBS 17 about COVID-19 response


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – CBS 17 exclusively spoke to Dr. John Brooks, Chief Medical Officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and COVID-19 response.

Brooks talked about the latest coronavirus developments, when we could see a vaccine, and what it has been like working on the frontlines during a pandemic.

Brooks is responsible for staying on top of all of the medical information and providing advice and leadership to the American people. The COVID-19 response team has been nonstop and works nearly 24-7.

“This has been a real rollercoaster. It’s remarkable how in a very short period of time, so many people in my agency have been called in to do the work and they’re working very hard,” said Brooks.

Publications and new information are being released in tidal waves every day. Brooks said this is very challenging because it’s an enormous amount of learning quickly. He works with a team of people to scan literature and speaks to people around the world and shares information.

“It’s been busy. I’ve never expected to see something like this. It’s been unprecedented, but this is the kind of thing that all of us have been trained to do,” Brooks said.

Are we getting close to a vaccine?

Brooks said it’s impossible to predict when a vaccine would be available, but said we are getting closer every day.

“I’m hopeful by the end of the year that we will be getting into what we call phase three trials. Those are trials that we take a candidate vaccine that has shown is safe and effective and try its much larger population of people to confirm the safety and measure how effective it may be,” Brooks said.

Is the CDC expecting to see a second coronavirus outbreak?

Possibly and it’s something the CDC is concerned about.

“I think what particularly concerns us is that the reoccurrence in the fall could happen at the same time as the flu next year,” Brooks said.

He said it would not be good for the United States to see both the flu and coronavirus outbreak, adding if you are thinking about getting a flu vaccine this year, then you should.

Why is the U.S. leading in the world for the number of coronavirus cases and deaths?

Brooks said that this has a lot to do with the United State’s population size.

“I think some of the really extreme measures that people often talk about in Asia would be very hard for us to use here,” Brooks said.

“If you have a loved one who is particularly vulnerable or you yourself [are] particularly vulnerable, these are the kinds of people that we need to work to protect. Make sure they are sheltered in a way that they are not exposed to the virus,” he said.

Many states are showing an uptick in cases and hospitalizations, including North Carolina. Is this concerning?

He said we’ll have to continue to watch the trends.

“What I would like to say to folks is pay attention to your symptoms. If you develop any symptoms of illness or know that you have been in contact with someone who may have been ill, call your physician, or find a place to get tested. Call ahead,” Brooks said.

He also recommended that people who are concerned or may have been exposed to consider quarantining for up to 14 days or until they know they don’t have COVID-19.

Fall sports are around the corner. Do you see fans being able to attend games?

According to the CDC, it will likely be more of a challenge for inside sports than outdoor sports.

“As long as you can maintain a six-foot distance from other people, wear a face covering, and make sure hands are clean and good ventilation, then I think sports venues may be able to open, especially those that are outside where there’s a lot of sunlight and a lot of ventilation,” Brooks said.

Can you spread the coronavirus if you are asymptomatic?

“We know that there is very strong evidence that shows that people who are asymptomatic, and by that I mean a person who got the infection and never developed any symptoms, we know that people like that can spread the virus,” Brooks said.

The World Health Organization recently said it was “very rare,” but then walked that back after creating confusion.

“I’m glad that they clarified their comments because it was a little scary for people or confusing for people to understand what they were saying. But you know, we’re all learning as we go along, and hopefully, by working together we are going to get this thing under control,” Brooks said.

The CDC says that from their work and many others that the percentage of people that may come infected and not have symptoms can be “substantial.”

“It’s hard to know what that percentage is, but a recent paper estimated that it could be as high as 30-percent. I think the important message here is regardless of that risk, that doesn’t change what we recommend to transmitting infectious,” said Brooks.

He says their goal is to get America back working safely again.

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