Good and bad news about coronavirus
There's good news and bad news about coronavirus.
First, there's reason for optimism. The virus struck only four months ago, yet we already know its genetic features. It took scientists years to get that far with HIV/AIDS. Antiviral drugs are in development, and a vaccine could be available within 18 months. The pace of scientific progress is breathtaking.
So is human ingenuity. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will soon offer home coronavirus testing kits, starting in the hard-hit Seattle area. Anyone who's worried can fill out an online questionnaire, receive a nasal swab kit in the mail, use it and send it to the lab. Positive results will be shared with public health officials, who will help infected people get medical care and self-quarantine. That's progress.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that in Korea, no one under 30 has died from coronavirus. In Japan, no one under 50 has died. Our children appear safe. That's a blessing.
But there are serious concerns. Doctors at Johns Hopkins University are cautioning that your hospital could become a "disease amplifier." If you don't have coronavirus before you go into the hospital, the risk is you'll get it while you're there.
The CDC is warning that the outbreak is only beginning and "there's a good chance many will become sick."
No one knows how many will need hospital care. But hospitals in New York and across the nation expect to be overwhelmed. The impact will be "severe in the best of circumstances," warns the Johns Hopkins report.
To make room for the infected, hospitals are devising emergency strategies that include discharging other patients sooner than usual, converting single rooms into doubles, creating makeshift isolation facilities, buying nearby motels, and even erecting temporary wards in parking lots.
Surgeons are alerting patients that elective procedures may have to be canceled.
Hospitals will be short on space and equipment, and worst of all, short on staff. Already the coronavirus is infecting some health care workers and forcing others into self-quarantine because they've been exposed.