COVID-19 will test medical supply stocks



In a JAMA Live Stream interview, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, urged resolve, rather than panic, as the coronavirus pandemic takes hold in the United States.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, was interviewed by JAMA Editor in Chief, Dr. Howard Bauchner, on JAMA Live Stream

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, was interviewed by JAMA Editor in Chief, Dr. Howard Bauchner, on JAMA Live Stream.

Dr. Fauci got into the details of what is known, what is unknown, what is being done in laboratories, and what clinical elements are still not understood about this disease.

The next several weeks, he said, are likely to tell the tale of whether our health care system is up to the challenge of care for the most ill among those who will be affected by COVID-19.

“It shouldn’t panic or frighten us, but we have to know we’re dealing with a very serious problem that we have to address, and we have to deal with it in a very bold way,” said Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Speaking in an interview with JAMA Editor in Chief Howard Bauchner, MD, Dr. Fauci said the situation favors action over fear. “Let’s apply that energy to doing the things that we know can mitigate this.”

He added that he heard the message loud and clear from health care leaders in Italy and France during a World Health Organization coronavirus call earlier in the day. Officials in those countries, he said, were “almost pleading with the rest of the world to please take this very seriously, because it happens all of a sudden – very abruptly. ... The best time to mitigate is before that happens, because if you wait until after it happens you’re playing catch-up.”

Dr. Bauchner, noting that strict social distancing has been underway in many parts of the United States for several days, posited that, by early April, “We’ll really have a sense if we can manage in terms of serious illness.” Seattle, New York, Boston, and the San Francisco Bay Area may experience demand that outstrips ICU capacity at that point, but the rest of the country, he said, “is doing relatively well.”

Stress test on the health care system

Dr. Fauci agreed with this statement and added: “We’re going to know – for better or worse – whether we have enough of what it takes to be able to practice the kind of medicine that we optimally would want to practice.

In the matter of a week or 2 ... I think we’ll get a feel for whether or not we really have enough of the supplies that it takes.”

The well-publicized regional shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) are forcing tough choices in some areas. As expedited – and even drive-through – testing begins, some of the demand for testing-related PPE may abate, especially if protocols include self-administration of nasal swabs, he noted.

Dr. Fauci added that the strategic national stockpile of medical supplies and equipment has not yet been tapped, “but you need to backfill that as quickly as you can once you start drawing from the strategic national stockpile.”

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