One thing that has been clear since the beginning of the pandemic is that it disproportionately impacts people of color. A new study proposes that it doesn’t have to be this way. The study looked at 11,210 COVID-19 patients that sought care at one of the 92 Ascension Hospitals that are in 12 states between February 19th and May 31st. Since the hospitals were part of the same healthcare system, they followed the same protocols for testing and treatments. After reviewing the data, researchers found that black Americans were not more likely to die than their white counterparts. This held true even for those that needed to be in the intensive care unit on a ventilator.
Of the individuals in the study, whites accounted for 41% of the patients, blacks 37%, and the rest of the 22% were classified as “other” or “missing.” Patients that needed to be in the ICU were 39% black and 42% white. Also, patients that required mechanical ventilation were 31% black and 34% white. Of those that died, 19% were black and 23% were white.
The average age of the black patients was five years younger than the white ones. They were also more likely to have a history of chronic medical conditions, like asthma, chronic kidney disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Black patients had a higher rate of being insured by Medicaid and an elevated neighborhood deprivation index, which means they were poorer and had less employment and education. This goes to show that when provided the same level of care, the odds confronted by patients of color can be conquered.
Some worrisome information is coming to light regarding individuals who have “recovered” from COVID-19. They seem to be affected by lasting symptoms, such as loss of the sense of smell, a dry cough, flu or fever, shortness of breath, nausea, and chronic fatigue. Some patients feel better after a few weeks of rest, but continue to experience some symptoms intermittently for the next several months. Unfortunately, some individuals are having severe difficulties with their heart and lungs. Other patients are having psychological problems. According to the scientists, the number of people who have lingering issues after getting over the initial infection is far higher than is the case with most other viral illnesses. Since the virus is new, no one knows how long these symptoms will last.
New guidelines released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) indicate that it’s futile to get an antibody test. They say that the majority of these tests are inaccurate because they either look at the wrong antibodies or the right ones fade with time. Since they aren’t able to provide answers regarding a person’s immunity, the society feels that antibody tests “cannot inform decisions to discontinue physical distancing or lessen the use of personal protective equipment.”
The statement issued by the IDSA is concerning as experts at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) are saying that we could see another 134,000 deaths by December if there are no further mandates regarding masks and social distancing. They’re estimating that the numbers will drop in September, but increase later in the fall and probably reach 310,000 by December 1st. They point out that if the current mandates are relaxed, the numbers could be even higher. Instead of the current prediction of 2,000 daily deaths, it could reach 6,000. On a positive note, according to the IHME’s projection, 70,000 lives can be saved if significantly more Americans would wear masks. It would take 95% of people wearing them to achieve this goal.
With these dire warnings, some are trying to find hope, including President Trump. Yesterday, he announced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had issued emergency authorization for using convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19. The president called it a “powerful therapy” that “had an incredible rate of success.” With him at the press conference was the FDA commissioner and Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, they both issued statements supporting the President’s claim.