As of 9/20/21, the U.S has the highest number of COVID-19 infections (42.3 million) and deaths (over 691,000) in the world–compared to any other nation (https://www.statista.com/page/covid-19-coronavirus). The COVID-19 death toll has surpassed that of the 1918 flu pandemic. According to epidemiologist, Stephen Kissler, PhD, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “A lot of the mistakes that we definitely fell into in 1918, we hoped we wouldn't fall into in 2020 … We did.”
Here is a list of some recent happenings: (If interested many of these stories can be found in Medscape. The online publication is free, but it does require a log-in process).
Death vs birth rates and ICU beds: “For the first time in Alabama's known history, the state's deaths have outpaced its births – a bleak consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic (Medscape 9/20/21). Only 40% of Alabama’s residents are vaccinated. ICU beds in Alabama are being taken up by COVID-19 patients, and the rest of the population is suffering from the consequences. A man, who had a heart attack, found that they were unable to locate an available ICU bed for him in 43 hospitals. A hospital was finally found (200 miles from his home), but it was too late; the man died.
Vaccines: “A nationwide study of more than 3,600 adults found the Moderna vaccine does a better job at preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations than the two other vaccines being used in the United States.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 hospitalization during March 11–August 15, 2021, was higher for the Moderna vaccine (93%) than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (88%) and the Janssen vaccine (71%),"
COVID-19 Boosters: The boosters for older adults and the immunocompromised population have been approved for those people who had the Pfizer vaccine. The protocol for the use of boosters with other types of vaccines is still pending. It is likely that nursing home residents and healthcare workers will be offered boosters, since the risk factors are higher for the elderly and the risk exposure is higher for healthcare workers.
Good treatments: According to Lindsay Petty, MD, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Michigan: “A vaccine helps stimulate and prepare your immune system to respond if or when you are exposed to the virus. Your immune system is ready to create all these antibodies before they are needed. In comparison, monoclonal antibodies boost the immune system after you are already sick, speeding up your immune response to prevent COVID-19 from getting worse. But a vaccine does this much easier and much better.”
According to William Fales, MD, medical director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Division of EMS and Trauma: You can think of monoclonal antibodies as guided missiles that target and neutralize the virus. But they don't stick around. While monoclonal antibodies are effective for about a month, they are long gone 6 months later, when a vaccine still offers significant protection.” Monoclonal antibodies are also being utilized for short-term prevention in some exposure cases – if the timing is right (Medscape).
Bad Treatments: It’s not a good idea to utilize products that are not approved for COVID-19 treatment. Betadine (antiseptic for the skin) and Ivermectin (de-worming) are not approved as COVID-19 treatments. It’s harmful to swallow random medication for an unrelated illness, as well as to swallow a product that is meant for topical use. Although we get frustrated with the regulation process at times, regulations do protect us. After all, who wants to drink contaminated water or eat unsafe foods or take in tampered medications? FYI: And it's worth noting that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and even the drug manufacturer have all recommended against the use of ivermectin in COVID-19. Every health professional knows that you don’t drink Betadine.
Healthcare workers misleading the public: “The Oregon Medical Board has revoked the license of Dr. Steven Arthur LaTulippe's, who didn't follow COVID-19 guidelines in his office and even told some patients that wearing face masks could lead to carbon-dioxide poisoning. His advice to patients amounted to "gross negligence" in the practice of medicine and was grounds for discipline, the medical board said in a report. He also overprescribed opioids for some patients (Medscape 9/22/21)
Crisis in Nursing: “The rapidly escalating surge in COVID-19 infections across the U.S. has caused a shortage of nurses and other front-line staff in virus hot spots, who can no longer keep up with the flood of unvaccinated patients and are losing workers to burnout and lucrative out-of-state temporary gigs…. Across the country, thousands of hospitals are overwhelmed with critically ill patients, prompting many overburdened nurses to change careers or retire early. The shortages are particularly dire in rural areas” (https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2021/09/01/rural-hospitals-cant-find-the-nurses-they-need-to-fight-covid).
These are just a few pandemic highlights for this month. By the time this is published, there will likely be even more. We have a choice to learn from our previous mistakes. What can you do to contribute to improve our public health?
Charlotte Michos is a clinical nurse specialist who values personal-centered care and serves as a Healthcare Consultant in helping others make informed decisions. For more information, email her or call (845) 548-5980.
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