Behind the Scenes

Larry Leibowitz COVID-19 Updates

Larry Leibowitz COVID-19 Updates

To my Patients and Friends,

Here’s a breakdown of some of the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic.  I hope you find this information useful… feedback is always welcome.

A new workforce on the horizon

This informative position statement just released by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) provides insight as to the contact tracing and other resources which will be required by local health departments across the country in order to “Support Reopening American Society Safely.”   The statement indicates that we will need “a massive expansion of professionals and trained volunteers equipped with the appropriate skills, training, and technology, distributed equitably across the country to help identify, notify, and support those who may have been exposed, and help them self-quarantine to stop the spread.”  Federal assistance will be critical… let’s hope it’s forthcoming.

How do you feel?

As I’ve discussed in previous newsletters, IT-based modalities will play essential roles as we begin to contemplate relaxing social-distancing measures and to move toward a new normal.  App developers are already on the case.  For example, this app available from the Apple store is worth downloading.  It represents a valiant early attempt at tracking COVID-19 based on crowdsourcing, or self-reporting of symptoms (or lack thereof) by users of the app.  Additionally, the developers of this app will donate a meal to someone in need every time a user logs in and adds their status.  I tried it out today, and it’s very easy to use.  Technologies like this will play crucial roles as we work our way to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please check out the app, consider logging in on a regular basis whether you’re feeling well or unwell (both matter, and it takes but a minute), and share this!

A history lesson

This Podcast interview with John Barry, the esteemed historian who wrote the book on the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, is worth a listen.  It compares and contrasts this historic event with the current coronavirus pandemic and provides some important lessons on how we can win our battle against COVID-19.  It’s fascinating and informative… give it a listen.
Unmasking the science

This very useful link delineates the latest on the science and rationale behind current recommendations for masking in public places.  It discusses the pros and cons, and it reviews various options.  It’ll answer many of the questions that you may have.
Treatment update

As you are aware, studies exploring a number of treatment options for COVID-19 are underway.  Gilead Science’s antiviral drug Remdesivir continues to make the news.  In this ongoing study, the medication has thus far demonstrated efficacy in treating severe COVID-19 disease.  This is very encouraging, and other treatments remain on the horizon.  There’s plenty of room for optimism… and we will get there.

And now this

The moment you’ve all been waiting for (drumroll please): Quest Diagnostics is now officially geared up to run coronavirus IgG antibody blood testing for asymptomatic patients who are interested in determining if they have previously been exposed to the coronavirus.  It would be useful to know if we’ve produced these antibodies in response to a prior exposure, because a positive result may indicate that we are- at least to some degree– immune to a repeat COVID-19 infection.  However, some important caveats warrant consideration (delineated in a previous installment but repeated here):

  • Although there is good reason to be hopeful, research to date has not clarified if (or for how long) individuals may remain immune to a repeat infection after an initial exposure to this particular coronavirus (SARS-C0V-2)
  • We can only speculate at this stage as to whether or not the presence of IgG antibodies is a reliable indicator of robust or sustained (versus mild or transient) immunity; we still don’t know for sure
  • The accuracy of these tests will not be 100%;  there are concerns about false positives as well as false negatives
  • The presence of IgG antibodies does not in and of itself exclude the possibility that someone may still be contagious; current PCR testing and symptom monitoring will still play critical roles
  • There can be cross-reactivity between other coronaviruses that are associated with the common cold and the one associated with COVID-19; accuracy is a concern for this reason as well

In time, we will have answers to these questions.  However, based on what we know about similar viral infections, most experts agree that, while we await an effective vaccine, we can count on at least a degree of immunity for some period of time after a COVID-19 illness.

The turnaround time for this Quest Diagnostics test result is expected to be 3 to 4 days, although it will vary depending on demand (which I expect will be very high).  The company has requested that anyone with a physician’s order to be tested to please call to schedule an appointment.

A mindful approach

Mindfulness meditation is a time-tested, proven approach to managing stress and anxiety, and it can be a very useful tool during these unusual times.  This free five-week online course would be worth participating in.  I can vouch for the facilitator, and my personal experiences with mindfulness meditation have been excellent and worthwhile.  If you haven’t already, I encourage you to give it a try.

That’s all for today.  Please continue to stay home, stay calm and stay well!  See you soon.