Welcome to Dispensed, Business Insider’s weekly healthcare newsletter. We’re on week two of work-from-home here at Business Insider. Spirits are high, Broadway is still dark (we miss you, “Six“!), we’re doing a whole lot of social distancing, and luckily – we’ve got reinforcements coming onto the team.
It’s my pleasure to introduce you to our newest team member, Blake Dodge!
Blake joins us after a stint at Newsweek, and even under the unusual circumstances of starting the job working from home, she has already hit the ground running. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Life on the front lines
We’ve been keeping tabs on what’s going on at the front lines of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Allana Akhtar reports on the challenges facing nurses on the front lines. “We’re grossly unprepared,” nurses told her. They’re frustrated that as the coronavirus spreads they have little direction from the government or hospitals on how to mitigate it.
- Allana also spoke to nurses about the concern that should they get sick during the pandemic, they might not get paid sick leave.
- Yeji Lee reports that medical school students are stepping up to take care of hospital workers’ kids as schools and day cares close. Favorite new daycare service name: “MN CovidSitters.” Read more here.
- I spoke to urgent care doctors about what they’re seeing and where they see their role in the response to the pandemic. Urgent care centers are getting flooded with patients worried they might have COVID-19. Some had testing when I spoke to them, some didn’t. Regardless, their main goal was clear. “We have to protect our ERs. We have to protect our hospitals.” Read more here.
If there’s one big thing Business Insider reporters heard this week, it’s that healthcare workers are incredibly concerned about the protective gear they have access to. In many places supplies are running short, folks are asked to use them in ways that don’t feel safe, and that likely won’t change any time soon.
Blake has the story on what’s going on amid the shortages – including some handmade face shields.
Read the full story here:
Hospitals are making protective gear out of office supplies and doctors are reusing face masks as supplies dwindle of crucial equipment
Reminder: Are you on the front lines of this at your pharmacy, primary care office, urgent care center, or hospital? We’d love to chat with you and hear how it’s going. Reach me at email@example.com, or the whole team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The hunt for ways to treat and prevent COVID-19
Andrew Dunn has been so busy keeping tabs on all the developments happening in pharma in the race to develop
- Moderna’s trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine got underway on Monday.
- The HIV drug Kaletra, which was being studied for use to treat COVID-19 didn’t pan out in a trial in China.
- German biotech CureVac on Tuesday shot down news reports that the Trump administration attempted to acquire the company. “There was and there is no takeover offer,” the company’s acting CEO said on a call Tuesday.
- Andrew also has everything you need to know about CureVac, which is developing a coronavirus vaccine (hence, the takeover reports).
- + (Blake’s first BI byline!) Bill Gates said in a Reddit AMA on Wednesday that he predicts healthcare workers could get a vaccine within 18 months.
One of the bigger stories that kept Andrew busy later in the week was getting a better handle on the potential for chloroquine, an anti-malaria medication, to treat COVID-19. Elon Musk has talked about it. Trump said some confusing things about it.
The malaria pill is from the 1940s. Right now, there’s no peer-reviewed evidence it works. But that hasn’t kept doctors from using it to treat patients. And, Andrew reports, supplies of it are already running short.
Read the full story here:
Elon Musk and President Trump are touting a 1940s malaria pill as a potential coronavirus treatment. But supplies are already running short as prescriptions spike.
The threat of overwhelming the system
I know like everyone else, I’ve thought about nothing but the constant stream of information coming out about the pandemic that has so massively disrupted life as we know it. But I want to bring your attention to the article I wrote that really rang home how severe our social distancing techniques – staying at home, canceling school and gatherings – will have to be.
It was reading the same report that convinced the Trump administration to take it more seriously. A report out Monday from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team projected that 2.2 million people could die in the US if we don’t act at all.
It called for drastic measures to bring down that death rate, even suggesting they might need to stay in place longer than we might have expected, and over the course of the next 18 months as we wait for a vaccine.
(Quick Trump administration-related scoop from Thursday: Oscar Health is working with the Department of Health and Human Services, supplying the agency with code to its assessment survey and test locator that it set live last Friday.)
Projections like the ones that came out Monday – and the ones I reported two Fridays ago – highlight why hospitals and lawmakers are concerned that we might run out of beds in our coronavirus response. Yeji and I wrote about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s concerns Tuesday.
It’s why hospitals have started calling off elective procedures, which should free up more beds in intensive care units, where the sickest patients with COVID-19 are receiving care, and why folks aren’t just worried it’s beds we’ll run short on: it’s ventilators, testing swabs, and maybe most importantly people.
It’s why experts like Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, are calling for a two-week “national quarantine” to stem the effects of the pandemic.
It’s what makes reading my colleague Aria Bendix’s investigation into the issues with testing so much more painful.
Read the full story here:
For more than 2 weeks, state labs were told they couldn’t use the CDC’s coronavirus tests – but the tests were working all along
I’ll leave you with a reminder of why experts are indeed worried about the number of beds we have in the US, care of the incredible graphics team here at Business Insider.
Here’s hoping you’re all are hanging in there.
Tell me how you’re staying social distant – what recipes are your quarantine go-tos? Any favorite online workouts? Need me to put more pictures of my favorite pup coworker in this newsletter? Let me know! (I’m at email@example.com)