Op-Ed: New COVID strains are coming. It’s no time to let down our guard
At the start of each new month, new research is published warning of the coming pandemic threat. Some, like this one on the possibility of “a second wave” of COVID-19, are so dire, they may be ignored. In fact, some already have been. This is not to castigate the research community. When the stakes are as high as COVID-19, this is what a robust scientific body will publish. But some of the studies, however alarming their conclusions, will be dismissed or downplayed, even when they have already been shown to be credible in other studies. We should not be lulled into a false sense of security that we have prepared sufficiently for a virus that has yet to be discovered. The spread of the COVID-19 virus is not a novel threat. The research on which we are basing our response is decades in the making.
Somehow, even with a vast infrastructure to detect and study infectious diseases, we have made such short-sighted and naïve decisions, that the best way to prepare for the outbreak is to sit in our air-conditioned homes, or to travel to places where we are safe. But in this time of crisis, it makes sense to look further into the research on which we need to base our response. I have long believed that one of the most important and neglected parts of our medical care system are our hospitals, and that a failure to acknowledge the need for better hospital capacity not only hurts the health-care system, but also is very likely to result in a worse outcome for public health.
With the current COVID outbreak, we are facing a new virus that is spreading among patients in the hospital. For the first time in more than a decade, people will be admitted to our hospital wards who have no known underlying medical condition. Instead, they suffer from a milder version of the disease we have seen in many cities over the past few years. The virus is likely to mutate and become more deadly in the hospitals we call home.
The research on which we base our decisions must not only be evidence-based, but must be relevant to our reality. In this case, the research to determine appropriate treatment and how to contain the outbreak is very much in the public domain and has been for several months. We know we are facing a more serious