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COVID UPDATE 4/20/2020 Dr. Williams speaks....

Happy Monday, everyone.  What a weird spring this has been!  Instead of talking about fun things like the Volvo Car Open, the Heritage Golf Tournament, and the Bridge Run, we're wondering if there will even be spectator sports in the fall! If you feel as though you've been a roller coaster, you're not alone.  The Covid recommendations have definitely been a moving target, and in my opinion, until there is either mass antibody testing, a proven treatment, or a vaccine, I do not feel that things are bound to change anytime soon. 

With my unexpected light schedule, I have taken time to stay up to date on the Covid stats, the government's recommendations, and have reached out to the state's elected officials.  There are a lot of debates and criticisms over testing and whether it has been adequate.  However, I think everyone can agree that testing at the outset of the American outbreak was insufficient.  And the criteria for testing seemed to be different in each state.  But did you know that the inadequacy of testing was due to the lack of reagents for the test, because those reagents come from China?  I learned this when talking to Senator Graham's office on Friday.  Since March, testing has indeed increased as American companies released tests to the market, but there are still unanswered questions in my mind as to the true sensitivity and specificity of the tests being administered, otherwise known as the percentages of false negatives and false positives for the available tests.  If the false negative rate is quite high, then it is likely that in addition to all of the people who tested positive, that the actual number of symptomatic patients who indeed had Covid is quite higher. 

And then it is suspected that many people have been exposed to the virus, developed antibodies, and had virtually no symptoms.  So it could be that the number of Americans who have been exposed to Covid is well into the millions, which would then make the death rate from Covid lower.   With all of these variables in terms of testing criteria and even the possibly accuracy of the tests, I don't think we'll truly be able to understand this virus until we widely test the public for antibodies, which will then help develop appropriate policy for opening up the country.  The antibodies will allow us to know how widespread the virus has been, who is protected from the virus, and who remains vulnerable.  On a state level, the Covid numbers have been on a downward trend for the last week.  If we maintain this trajectory for another week, then I think we can expect the state to loosen the shelter in place restrictions as per the Federal Government's guidelines which were announced last week.  But on a state level, we have already begun to see some changes, such as the reopening of boat landings, and the possible reopening of beaches this week.  Some local hospitals resumed elective surgery last week, with more to follow this week.  Selfishly, I am thrilled about this, because I ready to get back to my usual routine!  But it also makes sense since hospital utilization rates have been running at about 50% in South Carolina, and many nurses have been laid off because things like mammogram testing, other cancer screening, and elective but necessary surgery have been delayed.  There was a great article by William Bennett (CLICK HERE FOR THE ARTICLE) on April 6th in which he describes costs (other than monetary) of the quarantine.  I would suggest that people read it.  So while it looks like there is a light on the horizon, at least in South Carolina, and that restrictions may be lifting, I would still advise maintaining social distancing and hand washing to prevent a second surge, which is still a real possibility.  I am hopeful that recent reports are correct which describe the benefits of sunlight, heat, and humidity in killing Covid.  So for once, let's be grateful for our hot, sticky summers in Charleston!

I hope everyone has a great week.  The office will remain open as we have been over the last few weeks, keeping doors locked, checking temperatures, wearing masks, and limiting visits.  We are continuing to offer virtual visits whenever possible.  Feel free to call the office with any questions or concerns.  And here's something else to look forward to...Mother's Day!

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