This is the toughest part of the pandemic. Next year will be better, says former FDA commissioner

Dr. Mark McClellan (Photo: Duke University)

The nation is going through “the toughest part” of the coronavirus pandemic, with COVID-19 cases spiking nationwide ahead of the holiday season, said Dr. Mark McClellan, a Duke University professor and former FDA commissioner.

But next year will be better, McClellan said, when vaccines become available to the general public.

“This is probably the last big surge,” he told reporters Tuesday.  “It’s going to start getting better in 2021.”

New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are setting records in North Carolina, and Gov. Roy Cooper recently lowered to 10 the number of people who can gather indoors. Still, North Carolina has not seen the kinds of increases that are swamping some Midwestern and Great Plains states, and which forced El Paso, Texas, to set up a field hospital in a convention center and bring in mobile morgues, as NPR reported.

“Trends are concerning in terms of rising cases,” McClellan said of North Carolina. “It is not as bad as many parts of the county where we’re seeing cases skyrocketing out of control.”

McClellan said the country does not need a full lockdown, but state and local governments should take “measured steps,” that keep viral spread from getting worse and the economy as stable as possible.

Members of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team need to work closely with career federal government workers, McClellan said.

So far, President Trump is blocking the transition.

Biden will likely announce on his first day a national plan that makes testing more widely available and a plan for increasing availability of therapeutics, McClellan said.

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