As our nation battles a pandemic viral outbreak and suffers from the effects of the resulting national shutdown, the last two weeks have produced some very heartening developments.
First, antibody testing in New York state and elsewhere has revealed that roughly ten times more people than first thought show signs of having been infected with the virus. While this at first seems to be an ominous discovery, it is actually the opposite. It means that the vast majority of those who contracted the virus—fully 90%--had such a mild experience with the disease that they weren’t even aware they had it, or they felt no need to seek medical help. Dr. Donald Yealy is Chair of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Citing studies from New York, California, and his own city, Pittsburgh, Yealy explained it this way to reporters, “We’ve learned that way more people, far, far more people have actually been exposed to the infection without any knowledge of it. That makes the overall death rate much lower. Many people just didn’t feel sick at all and recovered without difficulty.”
Second, doctors on the front lines in hospitals across America have been reporting remarkable success treating the coronavirus with a new combination of old and tested drugs. Dr. Steven Smith, a board certified Infectious Disease Specialist and founder of the Smith Center for Infectious Disease and Urban Health in Newark, New Jersey, reports that when the virus first broke out, his practice was unaware of how to treat the new disease and within the first two days 20 patients had to be intubated--put on a ventilator. This is a troubling development for patients because nationwide 50%-80% of patients who were put on ventilators never recovered and went on to die. After doing his own research, Dr. Smith began prescribing a combination of Plaquenil (active ingredient HCL), a 70 year old drug with an excellent safety record, and Z-Pack (active ingredient azithromycin), one of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics in America. “Since we began the HCL/Z-Pack regimen,” Dr. Smith reported on national news, “not a single patient has needed intubation. And this is especially significant because roughly one third of our patients were diabetic or pre-diabetic, and another third were considered obese (both under-lying medical conditions that make coronavirus more deadly). But since we began this treatment protocol, we have treated well over 100 patients without a single death. This is absolutely a game changer—the beginning of the end of the pandemic!”
One of the clearest facts emerging from this epidemic is that COVID-19 is especially dangerous for older people. Statewide in Minnesota, 80% of all coronavirus deaths have been residents of nursing homes. St. Therese, a 258 bed assisted living facility in suburban Minneapolis has seen 47 of its residents die of the virus in the past few weeks. However, a different story came out of Texas City, Texas, where Dr. Robin Armstrong served the members of a nursing care facility. Dr. Armstrong stated, “I thought the risk of seeing 15% of that nursing home die was just not an acceptable risk.” One third of the residents at the care facility contracted the coronavirus and Dr. Armstrong treated 39 of them with a five-day regimen of Hydroxychloroquine (HCL), Z-pack and zinc. Dr. Armstrong explained his results to his local news affiliate, “Thirty nine patients have now completed their five-day treatment and all have done well—and no one experienced any side effects,”
Dr. Vladimir Zelenko serves as a Primary Care Physician in suburban New York City—the epicenter of this outbreak. “I knew that the virus would hit our area hard due to our population density—we have 32,000 people living in one square mile. So I did my own research looking at what had been done in other countries that experienced the virus before us as well as looking at treatments developed for the SARS outbreak in 2003 (another coronavirus). I developed my own protocol of a three drug cocktail: HCL, Azithromycin, and Zinc. In the last few weeks I have seen 1,450 patients with COVID symptoms. I divided my patients into two groups: high risk and low risk. The low risk patients (under age 60 and healthy) statistically get better without treatment, so I sent them home to rest and get over the virus. I gave my drug cocktail to 405 high risk patients (over age 60 or with underlying health problems) whose conditions were most severe. The accepted rate of COVID mortality at that time for high risk patients was 5%, so if I had just relied on ventilators I could have expected to see 20 of my patients die. But using these three drugs I only lost two patients, one of which was very old and had been chronically ill. This was a significant order of magnitude better than expected outcomes.”
Dr. Zelenko explains the rationale behind his treatment program. “The zinc is what kills the virus and zinc occurs naturally in the body but has a hard time penetrating the cell where the virus lives. What the hydroxychloroquine does is open a channel into the cell so the zinc can enter and stop the virus from replicating. Adding an extra dose of zinc to the cocktail has been shown to improve outcomes by about 25%. Meanwhile, the azithromycin stands guard to combat any secondary bacterial infection that may crash the party and cause pneumonia.”
After seeing the effectiveness of his treatment regimen, Dr. Zelenko stated, “I realized what I had, and I felt like a front line soldier who had stumbled across some very important intelligence—some valuable information that needed to be communicated to the 5-star general because that information could be used to win the war.”
Within a few weeks, Dr. Zelenko had published video reports of his findings and was in touch not only with the US Coronavirus Taskforce, but with over a dozen governments around the world from Russia, to South Africa, to Peru. Four weeks ago the government of Brazil began implementing Dr. Zelenko’s protocol, and he explains their results: “One week ago the Brazilians published a study revealing a 95% reduction in deaths after this drug cocktail was introduced for use in their government hospitals.” In France, Dr. Dideraulty Raou, one of Europe’s leading epidemiologist recently presented a study to French President Macron detailing similar results from the use of Hydroxychloroquine. In a study of 1061 patients who had been prescribed HCL/Z-pack, he found that after ten days, 94% had returned to good health and only one half of one percent had died.
But just as every death is more than a statistic—it’s someone’s personal story, so these successful treatment numbers represent personal stories of hope and recovery. Evelyn Rand is a 99 year-old resident of a nursing home in Little Rock, Arkansas. When she contracted the coronavirus, her children were understandable concerned. They had become aware of the benefits of HCL and specifically requested Evelyn’s doctor to begin treating her with the drug. Evelyn has been well now for over four weeks.
Don Wilkerson, the 80 year-old founder of Teen Challenge—a drug treatment center for inner-city youth in New York City—contracted the virus and was treated with only Tylenol for one week. But after getting very sick, he was prescribed HCL and in less than 24 hours he was feeling better. He called his wife crying tears of joy because he knew he’d turned a corner since his sense of taste had returned. (Loss of taste is a frequent symptom of COVID-19.)
Jim Santili had contracted the virus and, though cared for at Henry Ford Hospital for several days and treated with an asthma inhaler and steroids, his condition had gotten steadily worse. “One Saturday I was gasping and felt like I was drowning and might not live till the next day. The doctor came in with the results of a chest x-ray that showed my lungs were collapsing. He said they had basically exhausted all their options and suggested calling in an infectious disease specialist. The specialist recommended trying Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin since it had shown very positive outcomes on other patients. Within a few hours after receiving the first dose I had a drastic improvement—almost 180 degrees! My breathing improved, my vitals were better and I actually had hope at that point.” Jim has gone on to make a complete recovery.
President Trump called for a national day of prayer on March 15th to ask for divine help in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Maybe now we can give thanks for the many life-saving developments we’ve seen in recent weeks.
Pastor Mark Peske, of Cohasset, is an author, former missionary with experience on five continents, drug & alcohol counselor, and father of six with his wife, Sharon.