Blog posts

Weekly Rounds 5-31-20


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DFA’S WEEKLY ACTION ITEM: 


Doctors for America share the deep concern that Physicians for Human Rights has about the ethical dilemmas and safety issues that those providing care to patients in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic are facing. There is an urgent need to better understand what frontline health care professionals are experiencing across a range of health care settings, clinical roles, geographic areas, and policy environments. To address this need, Physicians for Human Rights is collaborating with researchers at the University of California at Berkeley to drive advocacy for better policies to protect both health care workers and the patients we serve. Doctors for America is asking you to participate in a brief and completely anonymous survey, which will take LESS than 10 minutes. CLICK HERE to take the survey. Please respond prior to Sunday, June 7th. 


Stay safe and well during this difficult time.


DOCTORS FOR AMERICA SPEAKING OUT & GETTING PUBLISHED:


DFA Founder Dr. Vivek Murthy  - Former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy Receives Award - The Vilcek Foundation and The Arnold P. Gold Foundation are pleased to announce Dr. Vivek Murthy, 19th Surgeon General of the United States, as the recipient of the 2020 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare. This award shines a spotlight on immigrant leaders in U.S. healthcare and recognizes the positive impact that humanistic care has on public health. A shared initiative between the two foundations, the Vilcek-Gold Award embodies the missions of both the Vilcek Foundation and the Gold Foundation. … “There is no better person exemplifying this effort than Vivek Murthy. His outstanding leadership is grounded in a profound empathy.”


DFA Doctor Brian Williams: The Other Public Health Crisis \Legislators Must Address: Gun Violence - Before the COVID-19 pandemic, operating on countless black and brown patients who are most of Illinois’ gun violence victims constituted my days and nights as a trauma surgeon. Now, having spent time in an intensive care unit dedicated to COVID-19 patients fighting for their lives, I see how these two crises intersect…. I went into medicine to treat patients with limited or no access to health care. Along the way, I realized I can do more than just treat. I can advocate for change and become part of the solution. I urge you to join me. While no law will save every life from gun violence, if we can reduce the devastation in black and brown communities caused by illegal guns, passing this law is worth it. (Dr. Brian Williams, Chicago Tribune)

 

DFA Doctor Mara Divis This Isn’t the Time for Bombastic Tributes to Health Care Workers - The Blue Angels have awed generations with tight aerial choreography and the sonic roar that heralds their aerobatics. No doubt millions have felt patriotic goosebumps watching their technical mastery at summer air shows. Last week, as the fighter jets tore over an emotionally strained Chicago, with the stated intent of paying tribute to health care workers and first responders, I felt only a pit of hard anger. (Kevin Md)


DFA Doctor Ranit Mishori - The Price of Speaking Out: Protecting Health Workers Amid COVID-19 - Frustrated and scared, health care workers have taken risks to speak out about the dangerous lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety provisions to care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are being silenced, threatened, suspended, or dismissed from their jobs instead of being commended for their commitment to safety as they risk their lives to carry out their professional duties. … Time and effort should not be spent punishing doctors and nurses advocating for the safety of themselves and their patients during a pandemic that has already taken more than 330,000 lives worldwide. Health care institutions can and must do better. - (Susannah Sirkin, Elizabeth Kaselitz and Dr. Ranit Mishori, The Hill)


DFA Doctor Jay Bhatt: America's COVID-19 Response Should Borrow a Page From NASA:  - Without a centralized "Mission Control," the implementation of a plan to realize this vision cannot happen. Communicating with citizens transparently and authoritatively requires a comprehensive and up-to-date fact base that records and reports verifiable progress and learnings and then builds on that repository to inform future strategy. It also allows leaders to demonstrate these efforts are working. (Dr. Jay Bhatt and Joel Goldhammer, ABC News)


THE WEEK IN QUOTES:


COMPASSION: We’re living in a moment when national sentimentality and displays of compassion are muted because the government doesn’t conceive itself as a first responder, There is empathy, but it’s been localized — it’s in the states and cities and neighborhoods.” - Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago

 

A GOOD PLACE TO START: “I personally believe the Affordable Care Act is a good place to start. It was always intended to be a start, to inspire further transformation. In spite of the persistent assaults on it, the A.C.A. has done much good. But much more needs to be done. Repairing the damage that has been done to this program and using it to build a more functional health care financing system that is understandable, transparent, accountable and uniquely ours is essential to our nation’s health and financial future.Sister Carol Keehan - The Former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States


OHIO GOVERNOR DEWINE: “Wearing a face covering is not about politics — it’s about helping other people,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R)  

 

HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE:  "The scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy,"- Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

 

HE WOULD TAKE IT AGAIN:He (The President of the United States of America) is feeling absolutely great after taking this regimen.” he “would take it again if he thought he was exposed.” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany

 

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R-TX) - ACA CHEERLEADER? : "Well, the good news is that if you lose your employer-provided coverage, which covers about 180 million Americans, that is a significant life event, which makes you eligible to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. And as you know, it has a sliding scale of subsidies up to 400 percent of poverty. So that's an option for people." The "good news is people can find, get coverage under the Affordable Care Act or via Medicaid based on their income." - United States Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) - NOTE: Mr. Cornyn has voted 20 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act


NOT THAT SERIOUS: Everything is sort of lining up in the direction that if we're serious about it, we can control this thing, We're just not being serious about it." Samuel Scarpino, Northeastern University's Network Science Institute


OPIOID EPIDEMIC: While the COVID-19 crisis is very troubling and challenging for our county, we are also still in the middle of an opioid epidemic, Unfortunately, it’s getting worse.”Lee Harris - Shelby County (TN) Mayor


MIFEPRISTONE:At every other turn during this pandemic, the federal government is trying to make it easier for patients to get the medical care they need without unnecessary health care visits that jeopardize their safety, But when it comes to patients who need to end an early pregnancy or treat a miscarriage, the administration is forcing them to travel to a hospital, clinic, or medical office just to pick up a pill they are already permitted to swallow later at home.”  - Julia Kaye, ACLU


Larry Kramer - June 25, 1935 - May 27, 2020: “Larry Kramer was a force of nature. … I believe that Larry Kramer fundamentally changed the world of medical research. He made Tony Fauci and others realize that it is not ethical to deny people treatment when no proven treatment exists, and that if experimental treatments are being developed, you’ve got to figure out a way to accelerate access to them. Building on the tradition of civil rights activism, Larry laid the groundwork for a new generation of health activists. He started a new style of focused in-your-face activism that was valid and changed health advocacy work from service organizations to organizations focused on creating structural changes to help people live better lives. He also turned a bright spotlight on the ethics of medical research, and changed that for the better. Tom Frieden, Former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and former commissioner of the New York City Health Department


REACH OUT: If you get an opinion piece or letter to the editor published PLEASE send me (Pete Van Vranken - pete@drsforamerica.org ) an email with a link to your piece and I will include it in the next edition of the Physician Rounds. Also please send me any feedback you may have on the “Rounds” - Much Appreciated - Pete


MEDIA COVERAGE: 


DOCTORS - MEDICINE & RESEARCH:


Higher Death Rates Found Among Cancer Patients With COVID-19 - Cancer patients infected with the new coronavirus are dying at significantly higher rates than Covid-19 patients in the general population, a new study suggests. In the study, conducted by an international group of researchers and published online by the Lancet, researchers looked at data on 928 Covid-19 patients in the U.S., Canada and Spain who had cancer that was either active or in remission. Thirteen percent of those patients died within 30 days of their Covid-19 diagnosis, according to the study. In contrast, the case fatality of Covid-19 patients in the U.S. is 5.9%, according to global coronavirus data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Sarah Toy, Wall Street Journal)


Obesity Is America's 'Achilles Heel' When It Comes To COVID-19 - A recent study finds obesity is a risk factor in COVID-19 hospital admissions for people under 60. Published in The Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal, the observational research looks at the risk of hospitalization according to body mass index, or BMI. Researchers found obese adults under age 60 had a higher risk of admission to the hospital and the intensive care unit compared to people who have a healthy weight, says lead author of the study Dr. Jennifer Lighter. (Jeremy Hobson, Allison Hagan, WBUR Boston)


COVID-19 Has Killed Close To 300 U.S. Health Care Workers, New Data From CDC Shows - The coronavirus continues to batter the U.S. health care workforce. More than 60,000 health care workers have been infected, and close to 300 have died from COVID-19, 

according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Carrie Feibel, Will Stone, National Public Radio)


Physicians, ACLU Sue FDA Over Abortion Pill Limits - A group of medical providers represented by the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday, challenging federal requirements that limit how medication abortions are dispensed. The medical group coalition, led by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, opposes an FDA restriction on mifepristone, a drug used to end a pregnancy or for miscarriage management. Medication abortions use a two-pill regimen to end a pregnancy. (Sandhya Raman, Roll Call)


COVID-19:


U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 100,000, Exposing Nation’s Vulnerabilities - One hundred thousand Americans dead in less than four months. It’s as if every person in Edison, N.J., or Kenosha, Wis., died. It’s half the population of Salt Lake City or Grand Rapids, Mich. It’s about 20 times the number of people killed in homicides in that length of time, about twice the number who die of strokes. (Marc Fisher, Washington Post)


Coronavirus Doesn’t Have to Be So Deadly. Just Look at Hong Kong and Singapore - Hong Kong and Singapore reported their first cases of the novel coronavirus in January. Four months later, the densely packed Asian metropolises, with a combined population of about 13 million, have seen 27 fatalities between them.... The cities’ fatality rates—among the lowest in the world—show that coronavirus outbreaks don’t have to result in large-scale loss of life. Their playbook: test widely, quarantine aggressively and treat patients early to avoid fatal complications and overburdened health systems. (Newley Purnell and Feliz Solomon, Wall Street Journal)


A Third of Americans Now Show Signs of Clinical Anxiety or Depression, Census Bureau Finds Amid Coronavirus Pandemic - A third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau data shows, the most definitive and alarming sign yet of the psychological toll exacted by the coronavirus pandemic. .. The findings suggest a huge jump from before the pandemic. For example, on one question about depressed mood, the percentage reporting such symptoms was double that found in a 2014 national survey. (Alyssa Fowers & William Wan, Washington Post)


COVID-19 TESTING:


Bad State Data Hides Coronavirus Threat as Trump Pushes Reopening - The spotty data flow is particularly worrisome to public health officials trying to help Americans make decisions about safely venturing out. The lack of accurate and consistent Covid-19 data, coupled with the fact that the White House no longer has regular briefings where officials reinforce the need for ongoing social distancing, makes that task even harder. (Darius Tahir and Adam Cancryn, Politico)


Antibody Tests Were Hailed as Way to End Lockdowns. Instead, They Cause Confusion. - Once hailed as a solution, the current crop of tests, which have not been thoroughly vetted by any regulatory agency, now seem more likely to add chaos and uncertainty to a situation already fraught with anxiety. “To give people a false sense of security has a lot of danger right now,” said Dr. Travis Riddell, the health officer for Teton County, which includes Jackson, Wyoming. - (Christie Aschwanden, Kaiser Health News)


Sewage Testing Gives Clues of Coronavirus - New studies increasingly show that the coronavirus's genetic code can be detected in the remnants of fecal matter that flows through sewers and into sewage facilities, either in raw wastewater or in what is euphemistically known as sludge…. “It's a leading indicator, it seems to be ahead of cases and it's ahead of hospital admissions as well,” Peccia said. “If I were a governor or a mayor, I would want to know that seven days in advance of what I already know.” (Reid Wilson, The Hill)


PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT:


They Evoke Darth Vader, but These Masks May Save Your Doctor’s Life - With medical masks in short supply, several hospitals have turned to industrial models. They get rave reviews and are allowed by the F.D.A., but the Trump administration has no plans to encourage distribution or production. … Government-supported research predicted over a decade ago that a pandemic would cause a dire shortage of disposable masks, and multiple federal agencies urged hospitals and policymakers to consider stockpiling elastomerics, which are designed to be cleaned and reused for years and are government-certified to protect at least as well as N95s. (Chris Hamby, New York Times)


Federal Agencies Turn to Untested Suppliers for Big PPE Contracts - Already, some have failed to deliver: two of the seven largest contracts given to companies that were new to federal contracting have been canceled after the suppliers didn't deliver promised respirator masks. And questions remain about the quality of equipment delivered by other vendors, including the company formed by former Trump administration aide Zachary Fuentes.  (Casey Tolan, CNN)


TRUMP ADMINISTRATION RESPONSE:


Trump Team Killed Rule Designed To Protect Health Workers From Pandemic Like COVID-19 - When President Trump took office in 2017, his team stopped work on new federal regulations that would have forced the health care industry to prepare for an airborne infectious disease pandemic such as COVID-19. That decision is documented in federal records reviewed by NPR. "If that rule had gone into effect, then every hospital, every nursing home would essentially have to have a plan where they made sure they had enough respirators and they were prepared for this sort of pandemic," said David Michaels, who was head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration until January 2017. (Brian Mann, National Public Radio)


Trump Announces End of US Relationship with World Health Organization - President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the United States will terminate its relationship with the World Health Organization, a move he has threatened throughout the coronavirus pandemic. (Jason Hoffman, CNN)


US Demands Removal of Sexual Health Reference in UN's Covid-19 Response - Civil society groups have condemned calls by the Trump administration to remove references to sexual and reproductive health from the UN Covid-19 humanitarian response plan (HRP). (Liz Ford, The Guardian)


COVID-19 & IMMIGRATION:


Lawsuit Says Trump Admin's Covid-19 Immigration Order Separates Families With Older Kids - A class-action lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday alleges that the Trump administration's ban on legal immigration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic unfairly separates parent from children who are on the cusp of turning 21 years old. (Julia Ainsley, NBC


AFFORDABLE CARE ACT AND COVERAGE ISSUES:


Pandemic Upends State Plans to Expand Health Insurance - The coronavirus pandemic has derailed Democrats’ efforts in statehouses across the country to give more Americans government-backed health coverage. (Dan Goldberg, Politico)


Coronavirus Widens Healthcare Divide Between Red States and Blue States - Regional differences have long been a hallmark of American healthcare. But the gap between blue and red states has yawned wider in the 10 years of political battles that followed passage of the 2010 health law, often called Obamacare. (Noam N. Levey, LA Times)


Trump Finalizing LGBTQ Discrimination - While the country deals with the onslaught of COVID-19 Trump’s Administration is reportedly finalizing its changes to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act also known as the Health Care Rights Law. These proposed changes will strip away protections for LGBTQ people & people for whom English is not their first or primary language.  (Charlotte Robinson, Outtake Voices)


DRUG AFFORDABILITY:


Trump Administration to Take Action to Cap Insulin Costs for Seniors - President Trump announced Tuesday that his administration is taking action to cap insulin costs for seniors with diabetes — a move that comes as polls show Trump lagging behind former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, with the important voting bloc of older Americans. (Seung Min Kim and  Yasmeen Abutaleb, Washington Post)


A Senator From Arizona Emerges As A Pharma Favorite - Sinema is a first-term Democrat from Arizona but has nonetheless emerged as a pharma favorite in Congress ... She is a leading recipient of pharma campaign cash even though she’s not up for reelection until 2024 and lacks major committee or subcommittee leadership posts. (Jay Hancock and Elizabeth Lucas, Kaiser Health News)


Pharma Panics as Washington Pushes to Bring Drug Manufacturing Back to the U.S. - As the coronavirus pandemic disrupts global supply chains, lawmakers are increasingly calling on drug makers to exclusively manufacture medicines in the United States. But for a large swath of the pharmaceutical industry, that’s an existential threat. (Nicholas Florko, STAT)


GUN VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC: 


Gatherings as States Reopen Could Spell Return of Another Dark American Phenomenon: Mass Shootings - And it was a jarring reminder that although much of the United States is transitioning from some degree of quarantine, a return to normalcy probably will be accompanied by the return of something that has become an all-too-regular part of American culture: the mass shooting. (Robert Klemko, Washington Post)


SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER:


Drug Overdoses Climb During COVID-19 Pandemic - Drug overdoses have risen in some areas during the COVID-19 pandemic, less than a year after the Trump administration touted decreases in the nation’s overdose epidemic. From Memphis to Milwaukee, a range of cities and counties across the country are reporting spikes in fatal and nonfatal overdoses. (Sandhya Raman, Roll Call)


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