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Science-Based Medicine Blog: COVID-19 update: What you need to know now that it’s officially a pandemic

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  • Science-Based Medicine Blog: COVID-19 update: What you need to know now that it’s officially a pandemic


    COVID-19 update: What you need to know now that it’s officially a pandemic

    On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 to be a pandemic. The causative virus, SARS-CoV-2 is spreading through the population. What can be done? Social distancing is the only hope of slowing down spread of the disease.
    David Gorski on March 16, 2020

    As I sat down to write today’s post, I realized that it would be hard to write about anything other than the coronavirus pandemic, given that last week was the week that, as they say, “**** got real” and the news is about little else. This is not the sort of post that I normally do, given that it’s more straight “medical blogging” than we usually do here at SBM, but it’s the sort of post that I, as editor, think that we need to write. Even though Steve did a great post a couple of weeks ago on coronavirus, events have been moving so rapidly that an update is definitely indicated. I write this realizing that, given how fast events are progressing, this post could be obsolete in just a week or two.

    Of course, things got bad at least a couple of weeks ago in Italy (and several weeks before that in China), where in Lombardy hospitals and intensive care units are now so completely overwhelmed that the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) wrote a remarkable set of guidelines stating that, in essence, wartime triage has become necessary because there are simply too many patients for all of them to receive adequate medical care. To give you an idea, over the weekend Italy reported its highest single-day death toll from COVID-19 (368), bringing its death toll to 1,809 deaths. Multiple European nations are following Italy’s lead in closing their borders, and France ordered all “non-indispensable” businesses closed, including restaurants, bars and movie theaters. It’s not alone. [NOTE added later: Monday morning, Michigan shut down all bars and restaurants except for carryout and delivery.]

    Meanwhile, Seattle is under strain and suffering staffing shortages as its hospitals groan under the burden of COVID-19 patients, and it likely won’t be long before parts of the US resemble Lombardy, the wealthy area of Italy that’s been hardest hit. Meanwhile, panic buying of toilet paper (among other things) has spread throughout the entire US. (Indeed, I went to CVS on Saturday to pick up my blood pressure medicine prescription, and the store was totally cleaned out of ibuprofen, of all things.) It won’t be long before other parts of the US follow.

    Elsewhere, in New Jersey Hoboken imposed a citywide 10 PM curfew and closed all of its bars, while Teaneck imposed self-quarantine on its residents. Friday, unable to deny the severity of the crisis any more, President Donald Trump finally declared a national state of emergency on Friday afternoon. In my own state, the governor ordered all schools closed at least until April 5; my university extended spring break a week in order to give faculty time to make the rest of their courses this term online-only; Henry Ford Hospital and its satellites are making contingency plans to set up tents to screen people before they enter the hospital and triage potential coronavirus patients; Detroit-area hospitals and nursing homes have imposed strict visitor restrictions. The list goes on. As I said, last week was the week when **** got real in the US. So let’s get into it.

    What are coronaviruses and COVID-19?...