A New Road Map for our Nation’s Response to COVID-19
By Robert N. Golden, MD, Dean, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and Joseph E. Kerschner, MD, Dean, Medical College of Wisconsin School of Medicine
You do not have to be a doctor to understand the terrible impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here in Wisconsin, new COVID-19 infections continue to rise. The virus has killed more than 1,000 Wisconsinites — almost 225 in the past 30 days alone. Similar data trends occur nationwide.
Our country needs a new path forward in the battle against the virus. The state’s two medical schools – the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin – are heading up this fight by launching innovative COVID-19 clinical trials, developing rapid diagnostic testing, studying the complexities of this virus, and increasing our capacity to offer telehealth and virtual visits. Our physicians, nurses and other health care professionals are working tirelessly. However, these frontline fighters need support from everyone to limit the spread of this virus.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently released a road map to reset the nation’s approach to the pandemic. It proposes evidence-based steps for immediate action.
Wisconsin’s medical schools support this plan. COVID-19 has not been contained by the current patchwork approach. To win the war against this virus, we desperately need an organized plan of attack – particularly for supplies, testing, and standards.
Combatting COVID-19 requires robust and intact supply chains. Shortages in laboratory equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other vital medical supplies (which our institutions and others throughout Wisconsin have already encountered) leave everyone vulnerable. We have conserved PPE and developed creative approaches to obtain and make new PPE, but it’s not enough.
The AAMC plan urges the federal government to invoke the Defense Production Act or other means to increase domestic production of such supplies. So no facility is caught short, the government should set thresholds and develop regional warehouses and stockpiles, with attention to greatest-need areas.
To fight effectively, we need to know where the enemy is. That requires testing. We embrace AAMC’s recommendation for enhanced COVID-19 daily testing to identify flare-ups. This will require federal coordination of testing and supply levels. We need a central web portal for records so we can react swiftly to shortages in testing supplies. We also need rapid delivery of test results. This is critical. Since COVID-19 spread often occurs before an infected person shows symptoms, three things are essential: readily available testing, rapid reporting of results, and contact tracing when an individual is positive.
We need consistent tactics to battle this virus. We support national standards for face coverings. Our nation needs uniform criteria for stay-at-home orders, reopening businesses, and in-person instruction at K-12 schools. We support the AAMC’s guidance for face coverings (https://www.aamc.org/covidroadmap/masks). While there are horrible disparities among certain populations, and some location-specific challenges, the biology of the virus does not vary from city to city or state to state. National standards will allow all communities to make informed decisions.
These steps must be taken immediately. The road map also charts a longer-term path forward to help minimize or prevent the next pandemic, because a lasting peace in this war requires planning.
We encourage the people of Wisconsin to support this road map, which provides a clear path away from the ravages of COVID-19 and toward a safe, healthy state.