Oct 30, 2020 Covid Update

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Like the rest of the nation, Arizona is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of Covid 19 cases. Our 7-day average for new cases is now up to 1082 which is up from 879 last week and more then double the average of 480 new cases back on October 1. Likewise, the statewide 7-day average for intensive care unit patients is increased from 172 last week to 188 yesterday. It was 125 at the beginning of the month.

Encouragingly the death rate remains low, especially considering the large increase in number of cases. The 7-day average for deaths in Arizona is 8 which is lower than it was a week ago and half of the 16 deaths a day occurring back on October 1. No one completely understands why this rate is remaining lower, yet one possibility is that the predominant strain of the virus is now more contagious yet less deadly then strains from a few months ago. Also contributing to this lower death rate may be our better understanding of how to treat more seriously ill patients.

In past messages I have singled out South Korea as a model for how I felt we should have responded to Covid 19. However, Taiwan just reported 200 days without a new Covid 19 case, and their approach deserves mention. Due to their experience with SARS (which is a similar virus) in 2003, they had an emergency central government agency which was activated to coordinate testing, PPE production and cooperation amongst various government ministries. They also began aggressive contact tracing and speedy isolation of close contacts of infected individuals. As an island nation, they did have an advantage of more easily restricting travel, yet they were very early in recognizing the threat, and began screening travelers from China in December 2019 and shut down travel into Taiwan in late Jan 2020. They did not do a country wide shut down. While concerns about privacy make similar contact tracing harder in the United States, we need to learn from other countries successes and emulate them.

I would like to update everyone on what we are doing in the clinic. Like most, we struggled in the early months with Covid 19, trying to figure out the right balance of keeping people at home while still seeing those who needed to be seen. We resumed doing Wellness Exams and routine visits on a reduced schedule in the summer, just as our cases in Arizona skyrocketed forcing another slowdown. In addition, our employee count reduced to just 1 full time and 1 part time assistant which greatly impacted our ability to be proactive. Since the end of the summer however we have hired 2 new medical assistants and now have 3 full time and 1 part time staff members. This increase will allow us to be in better contact with patients. However, while we are working hard to schedule as many Wellness Exams as possible, we are still only running at 75% capacity due to social distancing demands. Our hope is to catch up in early 2021.

Finally, I would like to remind everyone of two long standing clinic policies. First, we ask for 72 hours for refill requests. While we can usually do them much more quickly, this timeline helps assure you will not run out of medication. Secondly, if you have not heard back in 5 days on a lab or imaging result, you should call the office for the results unless you have an appointment to review them later then that. Thank you for allowing us to care for you and I wish everyone a peaceful week.