April 2020 Newsletter – Coronavirus
I published this in the Urban News
Coronavirus, Nursing Homes and Trump’s Complete Failure
Errington C Thompson, MD
It is kind of amazing. It has only been a couple of months, toward the end of December, when China announced that the discovery of a new virus in the city of Wuhan. It was a coronavirus. It was different than SARS, which we saw more than a decade ago. Two weeks later, in the middle of January, China announced the first death secondary to this novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
On January 20, a man in his thirties returned to the US from Wuhan and fell ill with the coronavirus. This man returned to his home in Washington state. By this time, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and other countries were reporting cases of the coronavirus. Ten days later, on January 30, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.
In early February, in Kirkland, Washington, the Life Care Center nursing home seemed to be battling an unusual number of their residents’ contracting what appeared to be the flu. One resident after another got sick, and even after several days, these residents did not seem to be getting better. They were taken to the hospital: one after another died.
As of two weeks ago, 29 of these nursing home residents had died because of the Covid-19. According to a Washington Post article, 30 of the 43 remaining residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. Forty-six of the nursing home’s 180 employees have also tested positive. Which makes us ask, what special precautions did this nursing home take in early February to try to prevent the spread of this virus?
This is a new virus, yet in a very short period of time, we have learned a lot about it. It is a respiratory virus, meaning that it is passed from one human being to another, by mostly coughing and inhaling the virus. We know that it is highly contagious.
Currently we do not have a cure. Supportive treatment works in a lot of patients, but not all: there are many patients who are dying of the Covid-19 virus. We have heard reports of vaccines being developed, but they are not ready yet. We have heard that old drugs like hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (touted by President Trump) may be useful in treating this virus, but experts have stated that these claims are highly dubious, at best.
One of the great myths that surround this virus is that it attacks only the elderly; this is 100% wrong. The other myth is that only the elderly will die with this virus. This is also wrong. Perfectly healthy, young, active people have contracted this virus, gotten sick, and even died.
It is now the beginning of April 2020. The coronavirus has been detected in all 50 states. Yes, it’s in North Dakota, New Mexico, and here in West Virginia. States all over the nation have enacted “social distancing” in order to try to stem the spread of the virus. All but nine states—all with Republican governors—have mandated “stay-at-home” orders closing countless restaurants and other businesses.
And as of April 3, there were almost 300,000 diagnosed cases of Covid-19, and more than 7,000 deaths from the virus, just in the United States.
With everything that has happened at the Kirkland Life Care Center, what precautions have nursing homes enacted? Are these precautions universal?
Nursing homes contain a population uniquely vulnerable to the coronavirus. It would seem reasonable that nursing homes would test every single patient. Then, if the nursing home does not have any patients with the coronavirus, its managers would make sure that the coronavirus never invades the nursing home. They would lock down the nursing home. No visitors who haven’t been tested. All patients coming in would have to be tested: and every new resident must have a negative test before entering the nursing home. All employees would need to be tested, on an ongoing, regular basis.