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April 08, 2020
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AMA: Science, not speculation, will defeat COVID-19

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Patrice Harris
Patrice A. Harris

During an address to the National Press Club on Tuesday, AMA President Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, highlighted the importance of using scientifically sound data to turn the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theme echoed through many of the COVID-19 related topics she discussed, including a warning for physicians about potential scams regarding the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), a plea for governors who have not issued stay-at-home orders to do so and the importance of relying on data when adjusting to daily life after the pandemic reaches its peak.

‘A growing mistrust’

Harris noted that the reliability of certain COVID-19 information from some online sources and elected leaders is questionable, leading to “a growing mistrust” among Americans.

Coronavirus 
AMA President Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, highlighted the importance of using scientifically sound data to turn the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic during an address to the National Press Club on Tuesday, April 7.
Photo Source: CDC 

“The AMA calls on all elected officials to affirm science, evidence and fact in their words and actions. ... We call on tech platforms to advance evidence-based information from credible sources and reduce the spread of misinformation.”

Determinations regarding the safety and efficacy of treatments such as hydroxychloroquine should be made by scientists and researchers and based on data, Harris continued.

“Treatment decisions should be made via a shared decision-making process between a patient and physician without intrusion by any third-party, government or otherwise. ... Science and evidence have to rule the day. Clinical trials are going on right now. That's how we get the data that we need,” she said.

Harris also alerted physicians about potential scams surrounding the availability of PPE and COVID-19 tests.

“I would ask everyone to have a healthy dose of skepticism when you are offered any equipment,” she said. “Let the large systems in the state and the federal government triage and respond to those logistics.”

‘Our best chance to slow the spread’

Harris called on the governors of states who have not implemented “stay at home” or “shelter in place” orders to do so. CBS News reported that the governors of Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have not yet instituted such social distancing orders.

“The most effective tool we have in this fight is physical distancing, which means every city and state that has not yet implemented ‘shelter-in-place’ or ‘stay-at-home’ restrictions needs to do so immediately,” Harris said. “Based on what we know and what has already worked in other countries and indeed our country — this is our best chance to slow the spread of the virus.”

She also encouraged all religious leaders to provide services via the internet or phone so followers can avoid physical contact.

‘Need to remain hypervigilant’

Bloomberg News recently reported that New York and New Jersey — two of the states hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic — reported declines in their daily death rates during the weekend of April 4.

According to Harris, even if the declines in COVID-19 cases and deaths continued, a date for removing social restrictions remains unclear.

“I wish we had the answer. Part of that decision will be made by the data,” she said, adding that Americans will still need to be cautious.

“We shouldn't think that after we get to the apex or the peak .... we can relax,” she said. “It's not that simple, we will have to be thoughtful. And again, let the data lead us on that. But we will need to remain hyper vigilant. There will be a new normal after this; there is no question we will get back to some semblance of normalcy.”

Harris said that although AMA is already thinking about discussions surrounding the ‘new normal,’ it is also focused on preventing further spread of COVID-19 and preparing for worse-case scenarios. – by Janel Miller

References:

Bloomberg News. New York reports first decline in daily coronavirus deaths. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-05/new-york-reports-first-decline-in-daily-coronavirus-deaths. Accessed April 7, 2020.

CBS News. 43 states now have stay-at-home orders for coronavirus. These are the 7 that don't. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/stay-at-home-orders-states/. Accessed April 7. 2020.

Disclosure: Harris is president of AMA.