Thursday, September 17 Update | What Happens Next?

I haven’t blogged in a while, mostly because life has been busy. It feels like we are all coming up for air after surviving June, July, and the first part of August when positive rates at our testing center didn’t dip below 30%. Rates of COVID-19 in the metro area are down, but COVID-19 is not gone. Our contract with CVSHealth to run the rapid testing center has been extended through the end of the year, and the daily positive cases remind me that the curve could swing upward again at any time. One of our providers told me she called a mom this week to let her know that her children had tested positive. She burst into tears because her mother-in-law had just died of COVID-19, and she would not be able to attend the funeral.

As the months go on, we see the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. I now have a cohort of patients who had COVID-19 in June and July. They have “recovered” but still don’t feel themselves. They complain of ongoing fatigue, insomnia, and shortness of breath, among other symptoms I can’t explain. They want to know what they can take and what they can do to recover, and I have no answers. We still have so many gaps in our understanding of the virus.

We also have those who have been reinfected. I saw a patient yesterday who had COVID-19 in June. She had symptoms and tested positive. She tested negative after her recovery. A few days ago, she started having symptoms and decided to test. “I didn’t think I could get it again,” she told me. “I wear my mask everywhere. I don’t know what I am doing wrong.” Antibody production is another gap in our knowledge. Why do some people develop antibodies, and others do not? How long do they last?

Fall brings influenza and cold viruses, which are impossible to distinguish from COVID-19. If lower rates lead people to be less cautious and all schools to open, COVID-19 could spike again. Sick care will be very different this fall as people will need care, and we will have to distinguish COVID-19 from a variety of other infections. We are restructuring our schedules and policies in preparation for what could be a challenging fall.

Finally, reports about a COVID-19 vaccination are hitting all media channels. We are still a long way from an effective vaccine mass-produced and distributed for universal vaccination. We are preparing for the next stage in the pandemic to manage people with COVID-19 while distributing the vaccination simultaneously.

I don’t know what the last quarter of 2020 will look like, but I know we will be ready, and we will be open. We have an incredible team that has embraced nearly constant change this year and done it with grace and endurance. We have a team of volunteers running a COVID-19 call center, which has responded to over 11,000 since launching in March. When wondering about what happens next feels overwhelming, I just remember how much we have already done.

Breanna Lathrop, DNP, MPH, FNP-BC
Chief Operating Officer
Good Samaritan Health Center