As New York State continues to see a rise in cases of the novel coronavirus and is the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, clinical trials for drug treatments began on Tuesday in the state.
The state acquired 70,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine, 10,000 doses of zithromax and 750,000 doses of chloroquine in the last few days, according to a news release by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
"We hope for optimistic results," Cuomo said during a press conference Tuesday, talking about the clinical trials. "The president and the FDA accelerated that drug coming to New York so the hospitals will start using that drug today."
In the United States there are over 51,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and almost half of those cases are in New York State. Of the at least 674 deaths in the U.S., 131 occurred in New York City.
"About 56% of all the cases in the United States are coming out of that metro area, and 60% of all the new cases are coming out of the metro New York area, and 31% of the people succumbing to this disease," said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, at Tuesday’s task force press briefing.
"New York is definitely a hot spot, there’s no question about it," President Donald Trump said Tuesday evening. "And you know what we are doing in New York to try and help, and I think we are doing an incredible job."
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence touted the quick start of clinical trials.
"We’re pretty sure we set a record," said Pence, adding that he thinks it took "62 days to be in the phase one clinical trial."
But as this trials begin, misinformation about the drugs being tested has spread.
"I've spoken with a number of health officials and there is a good basis to believe that they could work," Cuomo said in a press conference on Sunday. "Some health officials point to Africa, which has a very low infection rate and there's a theory that because they're taking these anti-malaria drugs in Africa, it may actually be one of the reasons why the infection rate is low in Africa. We don't know, but let's find out and let's find out quickly."
And while Trump has said the trial "is looking very, very good" and that chloroquine, a drug used to treat and prevent malaria, could be a "game changer," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top expert on infectious diseases, continued to downplay the president’s statements during Tuesday evening’s press conference.
"You heard yesterday about drugs being out there," Fauci said, but later added that the drug "hasn't been definitively proven to work."
A man in his 60s from Arizona died this week after ingesting a form of chloroquine. While the additive he ingested had the same active ingredient as the prescription drug, it is formulated differently. His wife was also in critical condition, according to Banner Health.
“Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus, but self-medicating is not the way to do so,” said Dr. Daniel Brooks, the medical director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center.
A vaccine to treat COVID-19 is estimated to be at least a year away, and no drug has been approved to treat the virus yet.
But while the drug trials begin, experts still point to self-quarantining, especially in New York State, as the most effective way to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
"They have to be following the presidential guidelines," said Birx.