4 Ways to Help End the Pandemic

From the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, individuals and communities rallied together to help each other through social distancing and mask-wearing and to support front-line healthcare workers by donating items such as personal protective equipment and meals.

Of course, the battle against COVID-19 isn’t over, and it will take the efforts of many people to bring about the treatments, vaccines and community behaviors that can finally bring the pandemic to an end.

Here are four things you can do to help doctors and scientists in the fight against COVID-19.

1. Do your part to stop transmission with commonsense safety.

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and help healthcare and front-line workers, as well as those in your community who are at risk for complications from the virus, is to wear a mask, keep at least 6 feet from other people while in public and clean your hands often.

“Masking clearly helps,” says UNC Health infectious diseases specialist David A. Wohl, MD. “It’s good for everyone. It protects young people. It protects older people. It’s not a sign of fear. It’s a sign of strength to use a tool to help solve a problem.”

2. If you’ve just been diagnosed with COVID-19, volunteer for the ACTIV-2 study.

There is no proven treatment for people with COVID-19 who are not hospitalized to help keep them from getting sicker. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week, consider joining a clinical trial seeking COVID-19 treatments for outpatients. Nationwide, the ACTIV-2 study is open and will test different therapies in an effort to identify new treatments for COVID-19.

“The ACTIV-2 study is the best opportunity to find medications that can help people get better quicker,” says Dr. Wohl, who helps lead several COVID-19 clinical studies at UNC Medical Center, including ACTIV-2.

Dr. Wohl says we will need good therapies that have proved to be safe and effective before we move past the need for masks and social distancing.

To participate in the ACTIV-2 study, you must be at least 18, have not been hospitalized, have had a positive test for the virus within the past week and have exhibited at least one of the following symptoms within the past 10 days:

  • Fever of 100.4 degrees or higher
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Body pain or muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Blocked nose or nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

3. Volunteer for a vaccine trial.

In addition to developing an effective treatment for COVID-19, researchers are working to find a vaccine to prevent the virus. Five vaccine trials have been selected by the federal government for funding and accelerated development under Operation Warp Speed: Moderna’s mRNA-1273, the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca’s AZD1222, Pfizer and BioNTech’s BNT162, and efforts by Johnson & Johnson and Merck.

These trials are testing the vaccines on people ages 18 and older who have not had COVID-19 but are most at risk of getting it. This includes healthcare workers and other front-line workers, those who live in a virus hot-spot zone, and Black, Latino and American Indian populations, which have been the hardest hit by the virus.

Many of the studies will also seek volunteers who are more at risk for severe illness if they get COVID-19. This includes people ages 65 and older and people with chronic lung disease, cardiac disease, severe obesity, diabetes or liver disease.

If you participate in a vaccine study, you’ll receive either an investigational vaccine or a placebo and then undergo monitoring over a period of time.

“Most people know that a COVID-19 vaccine will be a game changer. But to get one, we need to do the studies that prove a vaccine is safe and effective, and that takes volunteers,” Dr. Wohl says. “There has been a lot of concern about the rigorousness of the vaccine trials. Being part of these trials, I can say the science is solid, and they will provide answers over the next few months about which vaccines work.”

To get involved, register on the national COVID-19 Prevention Network website and answer a few simple questions to see if you are eligible to participate in a COVID-19 clinical trial. If you are interested in participating in a trial at UNC in Chapel Hill, please enter the UNC site code “CHNC” when prompted.

4. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, donate convalescent plasma.

Antibodies are proteins that the body makes in response to infections. If you have fully recovered from COVID-19, the plasma in your blood may contain COVID-19 antibodies that can attack the virus. These antibodies helped your immune system fight the virus when you were sick, so your plasma might be able to help others fight COVID-19.

Researchers are investigating whether convalescent plasma can be used for treatment of COVID-19.

To donate your plasma, you need to verify that you received a positive test for COVID-19 documented by a laboratory. You can donate as early as 14 days after your last COVID-19 symptom.

Visit the COVID-19 Prevention Network to learn more about participating in a COVID-19 clinical trial. For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the CDC website and the UNC Health COVID-19 Resources page, and follow UNC Health on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.