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chartGAOnursinghomeinfection-300x300Is the coronavirus’s staggering toll on patients in nursing homes something to be written off as a force of nature for which humans bear little fault? Or are there lessons to be learned about shortcomings that could help preserve lives the next time?

News media reports keep unearthing institutional misery and a blindness to the suffering of the aged, chronically ill, and seriously injured. Bad luck, shrug facility owners and operators, seemingly joined in by regulators and some politicians. Couldn’t be helped. Did the best we could.

In fact, investigations — by journalists and watchdogs — have shown the toll taken by nursing homes’ sloppy disregard for infection control, press for profits, and unacceptable paralysis as situations headed south.

covidhospitalbed-199x300When it comes to aggravating parties in the U.S. health care system, a certain French phrase captures an uncomfortable reality: “Plus ça change” — as in plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose or “The more it changes, the more it stays the same.”

We can see that here:

covidmdnatguard-300x174Federal and state officials almost seem as if they are competing with each other to race to new lows in their wrong-headed failure to protect elderly, sick, and injured Americans who require institutional care and whose health and lives are being savaged by the novel coronavirus.

An estimated 1.5 million Americans live in long-term institutions, including nursing homes, assisted living centers, skilled nursing facilities, memory care hospitals and the like. Covid-19 has taken a terrible toll on these frail, chronically ill, or seriously injured and debilitated people with more than 27,000 residents and staff dying from the novel coronavirus — roughly a third of all the disease fatalities nationwide. A third of the coronavirus deaths in the District of Columbia have been in skilled nursing facilities, while 40% of the Covid-19 deaths in California, the nation’s largest state, have been in nursing homes.

In the latest baffling response, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both suddenly have  “recommended” that states get nursing homes and other similar facilities to step up the testing of residents and staff.  They did not make this common-sense step mandatory, nor did they offer any word on how the federal government could help achieve this. As the Associated Press reported:

ctracing-300x218As state and local officials struggle with constituents restless with measures designed to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the next key phases in the battle with the novel coronavirus may prove yet more contentious. How ready are we to accept not just testing but also tracing and isolating infections?

The White House is bolting to a cut-and-run approach to fighting Covid-19, deflecting, denying and downplaying its staggering toll — more than 1 million infections and tens of thousands of deaths.

This already has led to a debacle with what needed to be an effective, widespread regimen of testing, testing, testing — not only to see who is infected now but also who may have been exposed to the disease and potentially have some immunity against it.

sagepoint-300x176With nursing home operators bleating up a storm of weak defenses and denials, soaring Covid-19 infections and deaths have laid siege to far too many long-term care facilities in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The consequences have been dire.

In Maryland, the Baltimore Sun reported:

“Nearly three-fifths of Marylanders killed by the coronavirus are residents of long-term care facilities, according to [a recent state] update of nursing home data …The Maryland Department of Health reported that 793 of the state’s 1,338 victims, almost 60%, were residents of nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and similar long-term care facilities. An additional 11 deaths were staff members of those facilities, with more than one of every five of Maryland’s confirmed infections being a resident or staff member of congregate living facilities.”

magazines-199x300For those who may have more time on their hands due to the pandemic and who may be seeking deeper digs into Covid-19, excellent long-form coverage is abounding.

Consider, for example, taking time for the New Yorker article by  Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer doctor, biologist, and best-selling nonfiction author who delves into the question of “What the coronavirus crisis reveals about American medicine.”

His premise includes in its painful illumination a quote from Warren Buffet, the Oracle of Omaha, whose quip assumes a different poignancy when applied to the post-pandemic state of medicine:  “When the tide goes out, you discover who has been swimming naked.”

gileadremdesivir-300x169Optimism and realism should not be oppositional characteristics when looking hard at the slowly evolving measures to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Experts always have said many ways will be needed to battle the novel coronavirus and much attention has focused on a few: effective treatments, a vaccination, as well as testing, testing, testing.

There are reasons to be skeptical and hopeful about what is going on in each area:

mitch-150x150It’s a little hard to fathom but actions speak louder than words: For political partisans, what seems to be scarier than a novel coronavirus that has infected more than 1 million Americans and claimed more lives in a few weeks than years of U.S. involvement in Vietnam?

Trial lawyers. Like me. Really?

Politico, the news web site, reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have grown adamant that “any” legislation Congress considers in the days ahead involving Covid-19 must shield an array of business interests from liability from “frivolous” lawsuits. Politico quoted him, thusly:

droz-150x150 drdrew-150x150DrPhil-150x150Even as countless health care workers put themselves at risk and display courage, professionalism, and compassion in caring for Covid-19 patients, a growing collection of colleagues are showering themselves in shame, showing that the credential M.D. may stand for master of dubiousness or Ph.D. is  someone whose nonsense is piled high and deep.

As the folks at the HealthNewsReview.org warned a “desperate public,” too ready to embrace self-promoting doctors and others because they are hungry for purported expertise as a pandemic sweeps the globe:

“Beware these red flags: partisan and hyperbolic language and hawking of unproven treatments that seem too good to be true. Seek solid advice from longtime public health institutions: the [federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention] and the World Health Organization. Understand that because this disease is novel, information is rapidly changing and often tenuous – uncertainties that can be exploited for fame and fortune.”

drugsinhand-201x300Whoa, Nelly. For Americans stuffing their heads with vague data about potential drugs to treat Covid-19 — including chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, remdesivir, ritonavir, lopinavair, Actemra, Oseltamivir, Ribavirin, Umifenovir, interferon, baricitinib, imatinib, dasatinib, nitazoxanide, camostat mesylate, tocilizumab, sarilumab, bevacizumab, fingolimod, and eculizumab — let’s get a little perspective, please.

Let’s put things simply, especially for most ordinary folks who have no desire to play at being pharmaceutical experts: As of this writing, as noted online in a meta-review by the respected Journal of the American Medical Association, this is the reality about drugs for the novel coronavirus:

 “No proven effective therapies for this virus currently exist.”

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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