Thursday Media Briefing on COVID-19

Thursday Media Briefing on COVID-19

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Another slight drop in the number of COVID-19 patients at The University of Kansas Health System today. 14 people with the active virus are being treated, down from 15 yesterday. Of those patients, three are in the ICU, down from five yesterday. One of those ICU patients is on a ventilator today, same as yesterday. 30 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID-19 but are out of the acute infection phase, down from 31 yesterday. That’s a total of 44 patients, down from 46 yesterday. In addition, HaysMed has a total of 10 COVID-19 inpatients, down from 12 Friday, with five of those active patients and five in the recovery phase.
On today’s Morning Media Update, Dr. Terry Rosell, Director, Ethics Consultation Service and professor of history and philosophy of medicine at KUMC joined for a discussion about ethical issues that have been part of the chronic and crucial conversations of this virus. He works closely with John Carney, President and CEO at the Center for Practical Bioethics, who also joined us. They discussed vaccine equity and the questions around having to carry a vaccination card in the future to travel, among other topics.
Dr. Rosell says vaccine distribution is not only a logistical issue, but an ethics issue. He says like with healthcare in general, there have been disparities in vaccine distribution. He acknowledges a big part of the problem so far has been scarcity of the vaccine. When the vaccine is more widely available though, he feels we will start to see more mass vaccination. He urges us all to be patient and says, “Let’s think of the ‘we’ and not only the ‘me.’ He also addressed the notion that we might need to show our vaccine card like a passport in order to travel or go to a show. On the one hand, he can think of reasons why it would be ethically justifiable to prove you’ve been vaccinated from COVID-19. Proof of some immunizations is already frequently required when traveling to foreign countries. It’s a sign that you are safer than if you had not been vaccinated. On the other hand, he says, we already have a division of haves and have nots in society, and right now vaccine access is no different. With everyone having to show whether they’ve had the vaccination, he feels it could erode our sense of solidarity.
John Carney says it’s our obligation to help the vulnerable and less efficient people when it comes to vaccinations. That includes the homeless, prisoners, and those in long term care facilities, as well as those who are older and my not know how to navigate the internet for vaccine signups. On the question of whether required masking infringes on our personal freedom, he reminds us, “Personal freedom is not anarchy. With freedom comes responsibility.” He says having to wear a mask is no different than obeying a stop sign.
Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System, says the COVID-19 patient numbers are really good but he’s concerned about some loosening of restrictions both in Europe and here in the United States. He says even though the seven-day average of patients continues to fall, without vigilance and monitoring, these numbers could go back up quickly. He also says even though the flu was nearly non-existent this year, it will still be easy to make next year’s vaccine, and we should not have to worry about a possible flu pandemic.
Steve Stites, MD, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health system, addressed the question of whether employers might be able to require the vaccine from workers once it’s fully approved by the FDA, which could take a couple of years of further trials. He says the best alternative right now is a change in lifestyle that includes following the pillars of infection prevention. He said in addition to faith, home and science, charity helps lead us to solidarity with one another.
Friday, March 5 at 8:00 a.m. is the next Morning Media Update. COVID-19 is impacting the need for liver transplants. We will answer media questions and those from the community we have not had time to address this week.