COVID-19 Update: Protecting Against Retaliation, Fighting Injustice

Ellie Kincaid

June 02, 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: 

New Group Stands Up for Clinicians Facing Retaliation

In recent months, healthcare professionals have reported being reprimanded or even terminated for publicly discussing personal protection equipment (PPE) shortages or sharing safety concerns. Other clinicians say they can't share their experiences for fear of reprisal by their hospitals.

A new organization cofounded by a medical resident aims to highlight and protect the legal rights of medical professionals who speak out about PPE supply and other matters of public concern related to COVID-19. "When health care workers share knowledge, correct problems — and in some cases, blow the whistle — it affirmatively benefits medical science, disease control, and the public interest," an attorney cofounder said. 

Op-Ed: Doctors Should Learn to Fight Injustice, Not Just Pandemics 

"As protests erupt around the country in response to police violence and the death of George Floyd, we doctors have a clear role to play," writes University of North Carolina Health System family physician Alexa Mieses Malchuk, MD, MPH, in a Medscape commentary. And yet, prominent arguments are taking place about the inclusion of social determinants of health, such as poverty and racism, in medical education. 

"These mass demonstrations, set against the backdrop of an ongoing pandemic," Malchuk writes, "are sobering reminders of the need for increased training in this area, not a reason to abandon it."

If We All Get COVID Anyway, Should We Just Get It Over With?

By shutting down large aspects of society and implementing social distancing and other public health measures in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hope was to "flatten the curve" and slow the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to avoid overwhelming our hospital system. 

But will everyone get COVID-19 eventually? F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE, considers this question, and its implications, in a new video commentary. "As physicians, the war against death is one we will always lose," he says. "But we fight the battle to push that day as far into the future as possible. I think we need to keep that in mind as we continue to struggle with COVID-19."

Distancing Works, N95 Respirators Work Better

A study that claims to be the first review of all the available evidence of the effectiveness of physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases has quantified the effectiveness of these protective measures: physical distancing from an exposed person reduces risk of transmission, and N95 masks, particularly for healthcare workers, are more effective than other face coverings.

While the study has some shortcomings, it does provide important insight for physicians, a pulmonary and critical care specialist said. "They're confirming what we knew: that distance matters; that more protective masks reduce risk of infection; and that eye protection has an important role."

Training Contact Tracers

Hundreds of thousands of people, both clinicians and laypeople, have leapt at the chance to join the small army of contact tracers being recruited throughout the United States to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Now they need training

"I don't think you need to have a public health degree to be a good contact tracer," said the lead instructor for an online training course from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Good contact tracers are going to be people who are good with connecting with other people and helping other people."

In Memoriam

As front-line healthcare workers care for patients with COVID-19, they commit themselves to difficult, draining work and also put themselves at risk for infection. More than 1000 throughout the world have died. 

Medscape has published a memorial list to commemorate them. We will continue updating this list as, sadly, needed. Please help us ensure this list is complete by submitting names with an age, profession or specialty, and location through this form

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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