At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, there are numerous mathematical models that are attempting to predict what happens moving forward. We all want to know how long the virus will last. How long do we need to practice social distancing? Are we doing enough? Will laboratories be able to catch up with the testing demand? And there are countless other concerns and worries surrounding the rapid progression of COVID-19.
What Happens Depends on Our Response
As is often the answer, what happens down the road depends on what actions we take today. What happens in the ongoing battle to slow the spread of COVID-19 depends on our government, our healthcare system, and the individuals in our country. The decisions made today, both small and large, will decide our future.
There are many “doomsday” predictions with worst-case scenarios predicting more than a million deaths in the U.S., including a picture of a seriously overwhelmed healthcare system.
One model compares SARS-CoV-2 to the 1918 flu epidemic and predicts that more than two million Americans could die if we do not take proper precautionary steps. The study goes on to suggest that even to reduce that number by half, social distancing, home isolation, and school closings will need to continue until there is a vaccination, which may be up to 18 months from now.
However, in South Korea, where aggressive measures were taken to stop the spread of COVID-19, virus progression has dramatically slowed. If the U.S. were to implement drastic restrictions, as several states already have (e.g., California, Louisiana, and Ohio), predictions show the number of deaths in the thousands, rather than more than a million, and our healthcare system is more likely to be able to handle the influx of patients.
Yet, public compliance in the U.S, even with limited restrictions, has already been sketchy at best. Can U.S. citizens persevere through these types of restrictions for a year or more? The challenge is in convincing people to change their behavior for the benefit of the greater good. The challenge is in educating and informing U.S citizens and arming them with information that reassures everyone that there is a plan and we will make it through this if everyone does their part.
Hospital Staff Becoming Infected
One legitimate concern is that healthcare staff will become infected, in part due to lack of personal protective equipment, and be unable to care for patients. Northwell Health in New York is already experiencing staff shortages as employees become ill. So far, 18 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 200 are self-quarantined due to exposures.
Laboratories Feeling the Crunch
Laboratories are also struggling to keep up with test demand and keep their employees healthy.
“ASCLS believes we are unlikely to see the needed SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 testing capacity for at least a month and perhaps more, even under the best of circumstances.”
- Cindy Johnson, ASCLS President
Understanding the urgency of the situation, the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Scientists (ASCLS) sent a letter to congressional leaders asking for an “emergency laboratory surge capacity fund” of $5 billion to aid laboratories performing COVID-19 testing. As part of the letter, ASCLS President Cindy Johnson explains that the laboratory funding can be used to bolster scholarships and loan repayments, help alleviate shortages of clinical laboratory scientists, and to expand Medical Laboratory Technician and Medical Laboratory Science educational programs.
Steps to Manage Stress
It is a stressful time for all. Moreover, while the intention of sharing information and forecasts is to motivate people to take actions that will keep them safe, this also creates anxiety that in the case of COVID-19 has led to panic. Each of us manages stress differently and how you respond in a crisis can depend on environmental and situational factors, such as your employment situation or where you live. In a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, we have little control over the situation, and we do not know when our lives will return to normal, which adds to the anxiety level.
To reduce stress from the current healthcare crisis, take breaks from media about COVID-19. And as always, take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well, and incorporating focused breathing or meditation. Share your feelings with people you trust and try to think forward to a time when this will be in the past and we will have gotten through it.
Orchard Can Help with Your LIS System Administration
To offset the burden currently placed on laboratories, Orchard is offering advanced levels of LIS administration and service-level agreements that can help your organization with its lab-related IT technology and security demands and allow laboratory professionals to focus on testing. Orchard has expert resources available that understand laboratory IT (e.g., networks, databases, cloud services, etc.) who can help you maximize LIS availability, speed, and reliability.
In a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to avoid panicking and work together to do our part to try to prevent COVID-19 spread to ourselves and throughout our communities. Orchard is committed to assisting laboratories that are involved in collection and testing for COVID-19 by efficiently integrating software tools and providing customer service that promotes timely testing. As always, we intend to keep you informed and be a trusted resource you can turn to for industry-related education. Follow us on Twitter at @OrchardSoftware and feel free to respond to this post by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.