When the coronavirus epidemic struck, the governments of over 210 countries reacted with great force. Medical supply of N95 masks and ventilators was quickly eaten up, and treatments for other diseases had to be suspended once the virus worsened. Hospitals are taking huge hits. One, the UAB hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, reported that the hospital had taken a huge hit from COVID-19. The board projected that by the end of the fiscal year in September, they will lose about $230 million. In hard-hit areas such as New York City, Seattle, and New Orleans, hospital beds are running out. Doctors have to prioritize coronavirus patients over others, cancelling appointments or being fearful of infecting sick patients and their families. Surgeons have been recommended to postpone elective procedures as well to keep hospital beds and supplies available. In the last few days of April as COVID-19 is on the verge of peaking in every state, some hospitals are beginning to reschedule elective surgeries.
According to President Trump’s press conference on April 24th, America has recently re-supplied itself with an abundance of masks and ventilators. Additionally, to help issues that COVID-19 caused in America, Trump signed a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill into law after Congress passed legislation this week replenishing the fund to boost both small businesses, hospitals, and research.
Not everything about the virus is negative, however. The medical community is experiencing unprecedented, yet positive changes. Telehealth is basically a virtual doctor’s visit through a telephone or video call, covering just about anything from diagnosing a sinus infection to post-op visits (as I had to do for both!). According to a Census report, as the number of in-person visits dropped, telemedicine visits increased. However, just because the doctor is not in the room does not mean that the quality of the visit decreases significantly. Surgeons and doctors report that it takes away the fear of being exposed to the virus further and they appreciate its convenience and lack of a hefty price tag. Furthermore, the health care community is growing stronger. From Arizona to Virginia, health care workers are blocking protesters who are arguing for the reopening of everything. Health care workers are binding together in hospitals, blurring job descriptions. All specialties are working to fight this pandemic, and the fight has brought promising treatments.
Research at Emory University, UNC Chapel Hill, and Vanderbilt University have made very positive conclusions. As of now, the oral drug Antiviral EIDD-2801 shows the most promise in defeating the virus. This drug introduces genetic mutations in the viral RNA, so as the virus copies its RNA, the harmful mutations damage the virus so that it cannot insert its viral copies in other healthy cells. EIDD-2801 also seems to work as a multiviral drug. Other drugs under testing include Avigan in Japan, Chloroquine at the CDC, blood pressure drugs, an HIV drug combo, an immunosuppressant, and an arthritis drug.
The future of medicine at the moment is unknown, but that does not stop doctors and researchers from losing hope; they are working together to make the future a better place to live.