Monday, October 26, 2020
Sun Valley Wellness Offers Doctor’s COVID Perspective for Free
There were plenty of people taking pandemic walks amidst the fall leaves at Adams Gulch on Sunday.
Monday, September 28, 2020



Dr. Seth Cohen made headlines in the New York Times when he set up the nation’s first drive-through clinic to test Seattle-area residents for the coronavirus in early March, even before Blaine County had recorded its first case.

As medical director of infection prevention at the University of Washington Medical Center, he was on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic as the first case in the United States was reported in Washington State on Jan. 21.

Idaho reported 539 new cases on Saturday—its worst day since Aug. 21. The state had more than a thousand new cases in two days, said Paul Ries. Its statewide total is now

Now, six months later, Cohen says COVID has felt like an inferno, a fire that continues to burn.

“Like a fire, it needs fuel,” he said.  “But now we know the factors that can help keep it from spreading—masks, ventilated spaces, contact tracing, social distancing.”

Cohen delivered his presentation, “COVID-19: Past, Present and Future,” at the 2020 Sun Valley Wellness Virtual a few weeks ago. And Sun Valley Wellness is offering free viewings at

Sun Valley Wellness sold passes to participants in 35 states and 15 countries, including Australia, Spain France, United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal and Monaco. Its presentations were viewed 2,282 times and 75 scholarships were awarded. Sun Valley Wellness hopes to return to its original in-person format  June 25-28, 2021, while retaining the virtual component option.

Twi Falls County reported 11 new cases on Saturday for a total of 2,225, noted Paul Ries.

Cohen noted that researchers began to work on a vaccine on Jan. 13—just five days after the virus was officially identified as the novel coronavirus on Jan. 8. And the first vaccine batch was produced for clinical trials on Feb. 7 before the World Health Organization even named the disease a pandemic on Feb. 11.

On March 16 the first phase one vaccine trial launched in Seattle—"a head spinning 65 days from the start,” he said.

That was the same day the United States began leading the world with its rapidly growing number of coronavirus cases. And no country has surpassed it.

“I wasn’t sleeping,” recounted Cohen. “All I could think of was COVID. My pager was constantly going off. I missed family dinners…. No one trains you to do science communication. Many of us felt a loss of control so we availed ourselves of mental health help.”

Cohen said his doctors and nurses worked around the clock seven days a week without succumbing to COVID. But they were shaken when the first patient in their 50s was admitted and quickly deteriorated.

“Restricting visitors was one of the hardest decisions the staff had to make.  It meant the patient had to deal with an unknown disease on their own,” he added.

In the aftermath, he said, he acknowledges that doctors’ response has been chaotic.

“And experts need to say ‘I don’t know’ more often,” he said. “What got us through the most was the culture of gratitude. I’m still in awe of our cleaning crew.”

Cohen noted that other countries flattened the COVID curve in six to eight weeks. Those countries shut down 90 percent compared with the United States, which shut down only 50 percent.

Today the United States has 10 times the rate of coronavirus cases that other countries do.

Part of the problem is the contradictory messages bouncing around this country that have contributed to apathy and a feeling that getting the virus is inevitable, he said.

“As a country, we’re not clearly communicating what the risk means. Young people will spread the virus. We’ll pass 200,000 deaths and likely another 100,000 by the end of the year,” he said.

Another problem is ineffective testing.

The United States had a positivity rate of 8 percent at the time Cohen spoke a few weeks ago, meaning 8 of every 100 people tested was testing positive for COVID. A positivity rate that’s higher than 3 to 5 percent means more testing is needed, that there are plenty of ongoing infections doctors are not aware of.

We’re only testing one in 10 infections, Cohen said. Thirty-eight states were testing well below what they should have been doing, performing less than half of testing needed for mitigation to contain the virus.

“The goal should be 1.5 million tests a day.”

We cannot get herd immunity without a vaccine, Cohen said.

I think we will find one but questions remain how effective will it be? he added. Will it need several doses? Who will get it first? How do we distribute it? And, if it’s only partially protective in the elderly, how long will it be until we can have normal culture?

The question of the 20 percent who may end up refusing a vaccine and the politics and disinformation concerning vaccines keeps him awake at night.

“I wonder: Could we turn out an ineffective vaccine for political purposes?”

But, he said, he is optimistic that an effective vaccine will be found because of the attention being given to it worldwide.

“We will get through this,” he said. “But together is the only way we will get through this.”


  • Dr. Seth Cohen said he has not heard of any credible cases of people getting the virus twice. “The challenge is you can shed the disease for a long time, even five months later.”
  • How deadly is COVID-19? The approximate case fatality of COVID-19 so far has been 3.4 per 100,000 people. By comparison, Ebola’s approximate case-fatality rate is 50 deaths per 100,000 people; MERS, 34.4; smallpox, 30.0; SARS, 9.6; measles, 0.2, and season flu, 0.1. 
  • Cohen said there has been no reported surge in cases from protests, probably because most protesterswore masks.
  • Cohen noted that public health investment is needed to address pandemics, which occur nearly every decade.
  • Between 20 percent and 40 percent of COVID cases are transmitted by those who are asymptomatic. “So, we need to think about others—not just ourselves,” Cohen said.


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