Looking back: Perspective after a year of COVID-19

CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus looks back at a year of COVID-19 and what's ahead.

Video Transcript


- Welcome back to "CBS This Morning Saturday." It's been a year since we plunged into the COVID-19 pandemic, an ordeal none of us was ready for. During that time, we've sought the advice and expertise of the brilliant CBS News Medical Contributor Dr. David Agus to help us make sense of what we hope is a once in a lifetime experience.

- Federal health workers are screening passengers arriving at three US airports this weekend.

- The deadly coronavirus is spreading beyond mainland China, where it has now claimed more than 40 lives.

DAVID AGUS: Quarantines work. We are going to have quarantines in the United States of America. It's not if, but it's when and where.

- You call this the new normal?

DAVID AGUS: This is the new normal. And we're going have a different way. I mean, you know, we're no longer going to go like this anymore. We're going to go like this. We're not going to be shaking hands.

- On Friday, President Trump declared a national emergency.

- New York and California, Illinois are in lockdown mode.

- Where do we stand now in this idea that so many people want to be able to get tested if they feel the need is there?

DAVID AGUS: We're not close in the testing infrastructure in this country, unfortunately. At major centers, there are long, long lines. This is a war, and we're missing the supplies we need in this war.

- The United States has crossed a grim milestone with more than 100,000 confirmed cases.

- What should people know about covering their faces in public?

DAVID AGUS: This is something that's imperative. We all have to play our part.

- How do we determine when the right time is to ease those stay-at-home orders?

DAVID AGUS: It will be graded, right? We'll go out with masks at first. It's not going to happen all at once.

- On a personal note, the only way I know how to ask this is, it's been six weeks since I've been with my husband and my stepson. And I want to know when someone like me is going to be able to get tested so that I can do that?

DAVID AGUS: Unfortunately, presently, in certain areas of the country-- and I say that certain areas have testing and they're very efficient. And other areas are just overwhelmed.

- It could be two more years before we have this herd immunity. How do we get there?

DAVID AGUS: Well, it's a one word answer. I mean, a very, very simple word. Vaccine. Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine.

- The first major challenge for social distancing regulations as Americans venture out for Memorial Day weekend.

- More than three months since the first wave struck mostly cities in the North and East and then declined, big increases are now being reported across the sunbelt.

- Much of the country is moving backwards.

DAVID AGUS: The key is behavior. If people are wearing a mask and social distancing, cases will go down. If they're not, they won't.

- The President was in a Maryland hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

DAVID AGUS: The first thing they did was they gave him an experimental drug. A cocktail. And then yesterday evening, he started a daily course of remdesivir.

- As we approach the holidays, the coronavirus rate appears to be increasing.

- Tens of millions of families around the country are thinking about this and talking about this. What should they do?

DAVID AGUS: It is a major issue. Thanksgiving this year is not going to be like other years.

- The US now leads the world with more than 13 million infections.

- Cases are up, hospitalizations are up. Everything continues to rise. Is there any reason to think that that will change?

DAVID AGUS: Every single holiday we've had there's been a significant increase. And so I am worried about the next six to eight weeks. I really am.

- Breaking news in the fight against the coronavirus. The federal government approving the nation's first COVID-19 vaccination.

DAVID AGUS: This is it, right? I mean, finally there is light at the end of the tunnel. We're going to go on offense against this virus.

- New daily case count down 64% from that all time high. Why are we seeing this drop now?

DAVID AGUS: Because over the holidays we let our guard down and we got together. And that dramatic increase happened over the first several weeks of January. Now, it's going down because of several reasons. We're more compliant, we're wearing masks, which is the good thing.

- Vaccinations went from 19 million to 60 million now. President Biden suggesting we'll have enough supply for all Americans by August. So are we on track for that?

DAVID AGUS: Yeah, I think by the end of the summer we could have herd immunity in the country. It's possible. But we have to execute.

- Wow. Dr. Agus joins us now. Doc, looking back on the events of the past year-- which it felt like 10 years for many-- what were our successes? What were our failures?

DAVID AGUS: Well, I think our success clearly is the vaccine. We developed the vaccine in record time, and it's being manufactured. And by May, we're going to have it for all people in this country.

The big failures I think are we politicized science and medicine. We had a delay in testing by several months. And that-- and we never had a testing system that was implemented efficiently across the country. And that was a big problem.

And then the masks. I mean, the science-- you know, one day we would say one thing, and one day another. The first time ever the world saw the sausage being made in our field, and then they didn't trust it.

MICHELLE MILLER: Wow. That is saying it. But I have to tell you Dr. Agus, you were one of the first to call the quarantines. I remember this specifically. So moving forward, what are the biggest challenges facing us right now?

DAVID AGUS: Well, we have to get to where we can roll out the vaccines. And so people are now letting down their guard. We're seeing numbers in certain areas of the country tick up. And certainly that worries me.

We have to keep wearing the masks and doing the right things to get to those vaccines. And then, we're going to have to really build the program for a regular update of the vaccine, which is the boosters. This is going to be a new normal, and we have to accept that.

And we have to stop politicizing that. And we have to stop arguing over things that are on social media and really talk data and science.

- Dr. Agus, where do you see us one year from now?

DAVID AGUS: One year from now I see us having a regular booster to COVID-19 or related viruses. I see us back in the workplace, most people. People who work from home will. I see us more like Asian countries where when you're ill, you wear a mask or you stay home.

Before it was kind of heroic, I have a cold, I'm going to go to work to show how tough a worker I am. And you would spread things. We're going to have a new normal in that we care about others.

- Doc, we've only aged one year, but your Zoom has gotten significantly better than that in the past year.


I mean to joke. It's not funny. Doctor, you've been so fantastic over the past year. As Michelle noted, you did call it so early. And we appreciate your time as always.

DAVID AGUS: Thank you. It's an amazing team to work with at "CBS This Morning Saturday" and I thank all of you. Together, we're hopefully educating people.

- All right, buddy. Talk to you soon, Doctor.