COVID-19 Daily: Physician Gag Orders, 'Coronavirus Party'

Ellie Kincaid

March 25, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Here are the coronavirus stories Medscape's editors around the globe think you need to know about today: 

Physicians Silenced

A hospitalist in Indiana took to social media  to plead for donations of N95 masks, hoping to help local hospitals prepare for the pandemic to reach them. Shortly afterward, administrators from his hospital contacted the online forum's moderator and the posts were removed, he told MDedge News. Administrators also warned him not post about personal protective equipment (PPE) because it made the hospital appear incompetent, and continued to monitor his social media posts. "I was told, 'We can handle this, we don’t need the public’s help,'" the physician said. "I was hurt and upset. I was trying to help protect my peers."

Clinicians across the country are being told not to speak to the media, and not to post on social media about their experiences. "There’s definitely a big fear among physicians, particularly employed physicians, in terms of what the consequences may be for telling their stories,” said one physician advocate.

A 'Fly in the Ointment' for Hydroxychloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine is in the spotlight after publication of a small, nonrandomized trial that some interpreted as evidence the drug could be an effective treatment for COVID-19. But Medscape contributor F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE dug into the trial's data and noted some serious issues, including a differential loss to follow-up between the control and hydroxychloroquine treatment groups, which could have skewed the results. Based on his analysis of that trial and another recently published randomized trial of lopinavir-ritonavir, he concludes that neither really moves the needle. 

One-on-One with Dr. Eric Topol

Do ACE inhibitors, ARBs, NSAIDs, statins, or ABO blood groups have any effect on COVID-19? In a conversation with WebMD Chief Medical Officer John Whyte, MD, Medscape's editor in chief and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute Eric J. Topol, MD, broke down the evidence and found it wanting. In the overall public health response to the pandemic, "the number-one priority has to be the healthcare workforce," Topol said. "We're not giving them the priority that is vital."

New Symptoms?

Unexplained loss of smell and taste should be considered potential symptoms of COVID-19, according to a proposal from professional societies representing otolaryngologists in the US and UK, which cites several case reports. But the jury is still out. A World Health Organization (WHO) official acknowledged the anecdotal evidence during a briefing and said the WHO is looking into the reports, "so that we have a more evidence-based approach." 

Bad Idea: 'Coronavirus Party'

One of 39 new coronavirus cases in Kentucky is a young adult who went to a "coronavirus party" held despite social distancing guidelines, the state's governor Andy Beshear announced Tuesday, according to NPR. "This is one that makes me mad, and it should make you mad," Beshear said. 

'Trying to Make a Buck' Off COVID

Nearly $1 million per month. That's how much the owner of the shuttered Hahnemann University Hospital is asking Philadelphia to pay to rent the facility as city officials prepare for an anticipated surge of COVID patients, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "We have the owner of the Hahnemann hospital jacking up monthly prices," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "People will take advantage of trying to make a buck out of this, and I think that again is sad."

Supporting Seniors

While public health officials urge everyone to practice physical or social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, this advice is particularly poignant for those 65 and older. Infection poses higher risks for them, yet previous research has linked social connectedness with healthy aging. It's important to use a variety of approaches to keep seniors socially engaged and mentally healthy, experts say

Ellie Kincaid is Medscape's associate managing editor. She has previously written about healthcare for Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and Nature Medicine.

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