Open Accessibility Menu

Dr. Dowling's 6 Month Update

COVID-19 Update: What We Have Learned

Sally Dowling, MD
Vice President of Medical Affairs, Atlantic General Hospital

We are now six months into the COVID-19 pandemic. We have learned so much about this devastating virus in that time. We have learned that the basic practices for prevention really do work. Isolation when possible, maintaining a distance of six feet from other people, wearing masks, washing hands frequently, and keeping our hands away from our faces all help to prevent the spread of the virus from social contact.

Widespread testing and contact tracing do reduce the spread of the virus. Wearing of PPE and practicing appropriate precautions when caring for patients does protect our healthcare workers from contracting the virus from patients who are infected with COVID. We have learned how to make our provider offices, medical facilities and hospitals safe places for patients to receive health care while minimizing any risk of contracting the infection from other patients or staff.

We have learned that certain medications such as dexamethasone and Remdesivir, as well as convalescent plasma treatments do help patients who become ill enough to require hospitalization. Oxygen supplementation including high flow oxygen and Vapotherm as well as certain positioning of patients including the prone position (face down) help with patients who are hypoxic from the pulmonary effects of the virus.

Delaying intubation and mechanical ventilation rather than using it earlier improves the outcomes of these patients. We know that there is need for a safe and effective vaccination, and this remains a top priority for the protection of all of us.

And yet there are also so many things that we have yet to learn about this virus. Why does it affect some individuals, many of whom are relatively young and healthy, so much more than others? What is the best treatment for people who become ill with the virus but are not sick enough to require hospitalization? What other predisposing factors make us more or less likely to become symptomatic if we do contract the virus? Are people who are asymptomatic with the virus able to spread it to others?

At this point in the pandemic, with what we have learned and what we have yet to learn, the biggest challenge facing us now seems to be persistence. Many have grown weary of the practices that do help protect us from the spread of the virus. But it is important to realize that we are making progress in the fight against this infection. We must continue to be diligent in our preventive practices. We should continue to receive our healthcare and work with our providers to maintain good health, control any health issues that we have and to be screened to detect health problems so that we can manage and treat them early on.

There will be a vaccine at some point and when there is one, our lives will regain more semblance of normality. Until that happens we must continue to work together as a community to minimize the spread of the virus and to help each other stay as healthy as possible.