COVID-19 Update: Hospital Walkout, #WhiteCoats4BlackLives

Ellie Kincaid

June 05, 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: 

Brooklyn Hospital Walkout 

When COVID-19 was at its peak in New York City, Oriana Ramirez, MD, worked 12-hour days, 6 days in a row, for 8 weeks straight at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. "I'd wake up at 4 in the morning, be at the hospital by 6 a.m., home by 10 p.m., cry in the shower, sleep, and repeat," she said. 

Ramirez, a third-year resident in internal medicine, didn't mind the long hours so much as the fact that patients weren't always getting the treatment they deserved. The hospital was short on funds and supplies. Yet, when residents tried to bring specific problems to the attention of hospital administrators, they felt their concerns went unheard.

Last week, resident physicians walked out for a 20-minute "unity break," staged to bring attention to a list of demands they want met before the city's next COVID-19 surge. Participants ensured that their protest didn't interfere with patient care.

#WhiteCoats4BlackLives

Healthcare workers participating in the growing #WhiteCoats4BlackLives protest against racism say it is a chance to use their status as trusted messengers, show themselves as allies of people of color, and demonstrate that they are intimately familiar with how racism has contributed to health disparities, like those on vivid display during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sporadic protests — with participants in scrubs or white coats kneeling for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in memory of George Floyd — have quickly grown into organized, ongoing, large-scale events at hospitals, medical campuses, and city centers across the United States.

"It's important to use our platform for good," said Danielle Verghese, MD, a first-year internal medicine resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who helped recruit a small group of students, residents, and pharmacy school students to take part in a kneel-in on May 31 in the city's Washington Square Park.

Doctors' Group Sues FDA for Limiting Access to HCQ

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has sued the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for limiting use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for COVID-19, arguing that the therapy should be made widely available to fight the pandemic.

The FDA has restricted use of the drug from the government stockpile to COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized and cannot enroll in a clinical trial. States can set their own rules for prescription, with many influenced by the FDA's warning that the drug has a risk for a side-effect of dangerous heart arrhythmias.

That harms the rights of its member doctors to prescribe as they see fit, causing "economic injury," the AAPS argues in its suit, filed in a Michigan federal district court on Tuesday, Reuters reports

Meanwhile, investigators for the UK RECOVERY randomized controlled trial testing hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment for hospitalized patients announced their results: no significant difference in 28-day mortality, and no evidence of a benefit on length of hospital stay or other outcomes.

HHS Vows to Reduce Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Via Testing Data

Along with results of COVID-19 tests, laboratories will now be required to report additional demographic data including race, ethnicity, age, sex, ZIP code, and type of test performed to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency announced. The deadline for compliance is August 1.

The updated reporting requirements will improve monitoring of disease incidence and trends by facilitating epidemiologic case investigations and contact tracing and will help determine the availability and utilization of testing resources. The information will also be useful for addressing potential supply chain problems.

Small Study: Inflammatory Condition More Common in Black Children

A new study provides more evidence to link the Kawasaki-like multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children to COVID-19, and suggests that black children have a greater risk for the condition. The small, observational study in Paris found that more than half of the 21 children who were admitted for the condition at the city's pediatric hospital for COVID-19 patients were of African ancestry. 

"The features described seem to mirror the experience of our center and what has been discussed more broadly amongst U.S. physicians," said the chief of the division of rheumatology at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who was not involved with the study, but noted the study's small size as a limitation.

Trending Clinical Topic: Conjunctivitis 

Conjunctivitis may be a symptom related to infection with SARS-CoV-2, according to some experts. Medscape’s reference team sums up what is known so far

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

If you would like to share any other experiences, stories, or concerns related to the pandemic, please join the conversation here.

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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