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Our Collective Health Depends on our Individual Actions in Confronting Coronavirus

By Dr. Mark Kaufman, WHA Chief Medical Officer

September 10, 2020

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked several people across Wisconsin, including WHA’s Chief Medical Officer Mark Kaufman, MD, to write a short essay on what they believe the next six months will hold for Wisconsin as we continue to battle the coronavirus. MJS asked, “Where do you hope we’ll be regarding COVID-19? In your line of work, what have you learned over these part six months that you can apply in the next six? How has the world changed and are those changes long-lasting?” MJS posted the essays online here. Dr. Kaufman’s essay, printed with permission from MJS, follows.

My hope is that, six months from now, we will have largely contained the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin with just sporadic outbreaks of new cases, allowing sustained in-person school attendance, businesses to re-open statewide and a return to something close to our pre-COVID lives. What are the odds? Well…it depends.
The development of rapid, inexpensive home testing for Covid-19 would greatly help us control the spread of infection. When that will occur is not clear. While there is feverish work across the globe on COVID vaccines, it will be challenging to complete the large-scale clinical trials necessary to assess safety and efficacy before year end. Even if that happens, ramping up vaccine production and distribution to inoculate millions of Americans will be a very big lift.
So, without rapid testing and absent a safe, effective and widely available vaccine, where we will be in six months largely depends upon our individual and collective accountability to do what we know will work: wear masks; physically distance; and practice good personal hygiene. This is a message WHA continues to publicly stress.
Hospitals and health care providers have learned much over the past six months. We are conserving resources and implementing new strategies to keep patients and providers safe as we co-exist with COVID. We know how to better care for very ill patients with Covid-19, which is reflected in the stable, very manageable levels of hospitalizations since April. Hospitals are able to provide excellent care for patients with Covid-19 while, at the same time, care for all the other health needs of Wisconsin citizens.
Thanks to welcome and effective regulatory relief, hospitals and providers are leveraging telehealth and other virtual platforms to meet patients’ needs during these COVID times. Many innovations in health care delivery will persist after this pandemic has passed.
Finally, we have learned that the world is small and that pandemics are real, no matter where one lives on this planet. Our collective health depends upon our individual actions. We are interconnected as never before. When and how the Covid-19 pandemic ends is up to each of us…and all of us.

This story originally appeared in the September 10, 2020 edition of WHA Newsletter