Gottlieb says we will have a vaccine in large clinical trials by the fall. But the more likely path out of today’s lockdown is the development of an effective therapeutic, coupled to a very robust surveillance system that allows us to ring-fence small outbreaks before they become large outbreaks.

But finding even one effective treatment is also incredibly hard. The most promising therapy under investigation is remdesivir, which was recently approved for emergency use in severely ill covid-19 patients. A preliminary study found that the drug improved recovery time from 15 days to 11 days — a 31 percent decrease — and showed no statistically significant effect on mortality. “The best that can be said about that drug is it shortens your hospital stay by a couple of days,” says Avik Roy, a health-care policy expert. “It’s not a cure, it’s a modest improvement on the condition.”

That’s not what most people have in mind when they think of a therapeutic. They want something that treats their illness quickly and sends them back into the world. But the reality is we may not have that kind of a treatment for some time, much less a vaccine that confers immunity.