Amid fears over catching COVID-19, many patients are continuing to delay going to hospitals and doctors for routine care. This has been ongoing since the beginning of the pandemic. Initially, the healthcare community was supportive of this in hopes of limiting the virus spread. Many places even went so far as to cancel non-emergent procedures. Some places, such as Texas, Arizona and Florida, are reverting back to this due to the jump in cases that are happening in those areas.
However, hospitals and doctors are getting concerned about the long duration of these measures. The delays in seeking care for problems other than COVID-19 means that other preventable conditions, like heart disease and cancer, aren’t being diagnosed. This could lead to more lives being lost that shouldn’t be. Federal data shows that thousands more people died in March, April and May of heart disease and other diseases than they had during the same period in previous years. Health officials are worried that this will happen again as cases spike.
Thankfully, there is some progress being made to encourage patients to get preventative screenings. According to Epic (an electronic health records company), screenings for breast, colon and cervical cancer dropped by 86 – 94% early in the pandemic, but was somewhere between 20-30% below normal by mid-June. It’s important to note that there is a backlog of tests to schedule, so it might be difficult to make an appointment, even if there are some people who aren’t getting tests done because they don’t feel comfortable going back into a healthcare setting yet.
A concern that hospitals have is that orthopedic, cardiac and cancer surgeries are essential to their survival and without them, they’re losing billions of dollars. This is impacting their ability to maintain enough income to fund other aspects of care, like the emergency department and intensive care. In order to combat the virus, many facilities have stepped up their disinfecting game and ensure that their staff has personal protective equipment (PPE), which is an additional cost, but much needed safety measures. Other safety protocols, such as changes to policies regarding visitors, initiating in-depth screening processes and keeping possible COVID-19 patients separate from other patients, have been applied, too. There is hope that these actions will give patients a sense of safety and encourage them to come in.
As the healthcare system is trying to find a safe and effective way forward, the White House is disparaging Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci is the nation’s top infectious-disease expert and isn’t afraid to tell the American people exactly what is going on with the virus, even if it isn’t the message that President Trump wants to be put out. As a result, the relationship between the two men has deteriorated and they haven’t spoken since early June according to some reports.
Due to the disagreement between the men, the White House has tried to discredit Dr. Fauci by highlighting “mistakes” he has made throughout the pandemic. Most of the material that they point to is back in the early parts of the response when limited information about the virus was available. One example they gave was that Dr. Fauci had initially said that the general public didn’t need to wear masks and then changed his advice later. However, Dr. Fauci isn’t the only health official who changed their recommendations once more evidence appeared in favor of mask use for everyone. This same concept was true with many of the early suggestions by health professionals.
The White House’s efforts to smear Dr. Fauci has received swift criticism from other public health experts, scientists and politicians (mainly Democrats). Several critics point out that some of the statements the White House uses against Dr. Fauci are incomplete or have been taken out of context. There is concern that these actions by the Administration will further perpetuate the lack of regard for scientific information that has been prevalent throughout the pandemic and will only serve to make it worse.