2020 was a long year, and the pandemic is not over yet. On the bright side, we can learn a lot from what has happened. Even early on in this experience, sleep researchers were busy evaluating the effects on our sleep with new studies, or altering ongoing studies to see the effect that this disruption of our daily routine has had on our sleep. The annual Sleep Medicine conference that is held in June was postponed to August to allow time to adjust to the virtual platform. Even by then, there was a wealth of information starting to emerge.

Rebecca Robillard, PhD, reviewed her survey of 5,525 Canadian participants aged 16-95, who reported sleep difficulties that increased from 36% before the outbreak to 51% after the outbreak, although approximately 6% of people reported sleeping better.… Read more

As I write this, one quarter of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated, while half have had at least one dose. If the vaccines offer us significant protection against the assorted variants in world circulation, there is hope that we may entertain a gradual return to pre-pandemic life once the vast majority of the population has been fully vaccinated. Here in the United States, debates about re-opening businesses and schools still rage, but a pervasive sense of “giving up” also is in the air.

“We’re tired of being under restrictions, and some people are vaccinated, and other people don’t care, so let’s just reopen,” is the rallying cry.Read more

Clinical and public health guidance related to COVID-19 has evolved over the last year. The Allegheny County Health Department provides the following frequently asked questions (FAQs) for physicians on common clinical and public health COVID-19 scenarios.

What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Isolation separates people with an infection (e.g., COVID-19) from people who have not been diagnosed with the infection, while quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to COVID-19 but are not yet experiencing signs or symptoms of the infection.

What is a close contact?

For COVID-19, a close contact is anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more.Read more

By Deval (Reshma) Paranjpe, MD, MBA, FACS 

The siege has lasted one year now. One year since the pandemic caused our lives to change in ways we’d never imagined. One year since everything shut down and all manner of unthinkable things ensued. One year since we started to see both the best and the worst of human nature brought out by crisis on a daily basis, both in the news and in our everyday life.

We may be done with the pandemic, but the pandemic is not done with us. Some people are living in a strange reality, believing that the pandemic is over for them (and for the rest of the world) because they’ve been vaccinated.… Read more

Allegheny County Medical Society

I’ve been the business manager for Weinstein Imaging Associates for 40-plus years. During that time, I’ve seen major changes in technology, healthcare policies/practices, insurances (introduction of HMOs!), not to mention fashion, music and hairstyles. You would think the saying “I’ve just about seen it all” would apply. Sadly, the early months of 2020 and the rapid spread of COVID-19 contradicted that statement.

Everyone in every part of the world had their reality turned upside-down in 2020. And our thriving, independent Radiology practice was no exception. COVID-19 was the pandemic of our lifetime, which would eventually infect more than 20 million and kill 486,000+ Americans (according to the CDC at time of print), and crush our economic way of life.

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Allegheny County Medical Society

Dr. Andrea Taylor-Cummings said, “People go where they feel welcome, but stay where they feel valued.”

Not all attempts to show appreciation are equal, especially through the eyes of the recipient. A recent online search for “how to show appreciation” led me to YouTube, where a millennial couple talked about how they’ve never felt more appreciated by one another until they started to recognize their so-called “love languages.” I’ve never read Dr. Gary Chapman’s 1992 book on the subject, but watching this video intrigued me enough to take a crash course via Google. Dr. Chapman’s five love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.

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So far, more than 20 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 with greater than 350,000 deaths. Here in Allegheny County, we have had approximately 60,000 confirmed cases and greater than 1,000 deaths. Nearly 3,000 healthcare workers have died from COVID-19 in the United States. In addition to the illness caused by confirmed cases, there have been many more infected individuals who had no testing performed. A recently identified novel COVID-19 strain appears to be much more contagious than previous strains and has been found to be present across the globe, including here in the United States. Proven effective measures to stem the tide of COVID-19, including face masks, social distancing and restricting public gatherings, have been unable so far to contain the pandemic.

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What is the future of telehealth? At the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, in an article entitled “COVID-19 and the Rise of Telemedicine,” the Medical Futurist reported:

“Telemedicine has not had the success it had hoped to achieve.”

Now, just a few months later, telemedicine “might” be a new normal and multiple commentators and organizations, such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and McKinsey & Co., are touting the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) as the long-awaited tipping point for the implementation of telehealth. Note some of the statements below; the underlining is mine.

  • McKinsey & Co. projected that virtual visits could account for $250 billion dollars of annual healthcare business, or 20% of commercial, Medicare and Medicaid visits.
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2020 October Buller

 

As the days of the COVID-19 pandemic wear on and we see and learn more about its effects on our society and our economy, I have been thinking more and more about what we will, or should, learn from it. I also have thought a great deal about what we have learned (and sadly, in some cases seemingly unlearned) from previous epidemics and pandemics.

Of course, we are continuing to learn a lot about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVD-19, its effects on those who become ill, its demographics, and how it spreads.

We have had a lot of experience with contagious respiratory viruses, most of which began with the so-called influenza pandemic of 1918.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, reports are starting to emerge which paint a fuller picture of short- and intermediate-term damage to COVID survivors. Long-term studies obviously are years away, but we may increasingly see a pattern of symptoms and signs that indicate that while the patient may be considered recovered, significant ongoing issues remain.

A recent Science article by Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, “From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists,” reviews some of these effects. Persistent problems include dyspnea, fatigue, tachycardia, joint aches, cognitive difficulties, persistent anosmia and multiorgan dysfunction. There are no large multicenter peer-reviewed studies on survivors published yet, only small studies measuring various outcomes with relatively small numbers of subjects.

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