The COVID-19 pandemic has put much of the US in a standstill in recent weeks as healthcare professionals work to accommodate mounting cases around the country. COVID-19 seems to be everywhere—on social media, in the news, in the community, and in healthcare facilities. According to an online tracker of COVID-19 cases compiled by Johns Hopkins University, there were more than 90,000 confirmed cases and nearly 1,400 deaths in the US as of 2 p.m. on Friday.1
COVID-19 is caused by a specific virus called SARS-CoV-2, which has been colloquially referred to as "the coronavirus" by media outlets.2 Having originated in Wuhan, China, the virus was designated as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020.3 It has affected many countries around the globe, including the US, where all 50 states are reporting cases.2
As healthcare facilities race to prepare and respond, there have been many headlines regarding public reaction, from retail business closures to supply hoarding.4,5 The practice of "social distancing" has emerged in a nationwide (if not, global) effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, with the White House issuing guidelines for limiting unnecessary exposures.6,7 These include avoiding travel, shopping outings, and social gatherings of more than 10 people, as well as working from home when possible.7
Twenty-three states have issued stay-at-home orders to date, asking residents to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine and for other "essential" reasons that vary by state, such as outdoor exercise while maintaining a safe distance from others.8 Some states had closed "non-essential" businesses but had not issued a statewide stay-at-home order as of noon Friday.8 However, many cities and counties around the country have issued stay-at-home orders, even if their states do not yet have a similar policy.
CDC efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have focused on travel guidelines, resources for identification and tracking, and the development and production of diagnostic tests.2 Meanwhile, healthcare organizations and professionals continue to prepare, adapt, and provide care in uncertain times. Internationally, South Korea made testing notably accessible and efficient by opening "drive-thru" facilities, in which passengers were swabbed in their cars.9 Similar facilities have popped up in some municipalities and healthcare centers around the country as testing has ramped up in recent weeks after initial delays.10 Several clinical trials are underway to find a potential COVID-19 vaccine, and the WHO announced a major study last week that will compare treatment strategies in a streamlined clinical trial design in which doctors around the world can participate.11
The US is also among scores of countries facing a widespread shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers amid the pandemic. The WHO said in a media briefing on Friday that the PPE shortage is "now one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives."12
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a guidance this week that outlines temporary policies to help curb the PPE shortage while a federal public health emergency declaration related to the COVID-19 outbreak remains in effect.13 The guidance is designed to increase the availability of general use face masks for the public and particulate filtering facepiece respirators (such as N95 respirators) for healthcare professionals. The new guidance can be found here.
The introduction of COVID-19 and subsequent efforts to contain the virus have resulted in societal changes both at home and abroad. The last few months have been chaotic and stressful around the world, especially for nurses and everyone in the healthcare workforce. Sharing knowledge and insights will be vital as the world fights this virus.
On behalf of Nursing Management, we would like to wish all our readers and their teams good health, personal safety, and the best of luck in the coming weeks. As such, we have provided the following additional resources:
This is a developing story. Check back with our blog for updates in which we'll share guidelines and other helpful information for nurses.
1. Coronavirus COVID-19 global cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. Coronavirus resource center. Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. 2020. www.coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus (COVID-19): situation summary. 2020. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html.
3. World Health Organization. WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 11 March 2020. 2020. www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---11-march-2020.
4. Duffy C. Nike, Urban Outfitters and other retailers shuttering stores temporarily because of coronavirus. CNN. 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/15/business/retailers-nike-store-closures-coronavirus/index.html.
5. Frankel TC. The toilet paper shortage is real. But it should be brief. The Washington Post. 2020. www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/13/toilet-paper-shortage.
6. Stevens H. Why outbreaks like the coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to "flatten the curve." The Washington Post. 2020. www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator.
7. The president's coronavirus guidelines for America: 15 days to slow the spread. 2020. www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/03.16.20_coronavirus-guidance_8.5x11_315PM.pdf.
8. Secon H. Almost half of all Americans have been ordered to stay at home. This map shows which cities and states are under lockdown. Business Insider. 2020. www.businessinsider.com/us-map-stay-at-home-orders-lockdowns-2020-3.
9. Bicker L. Coronavirus in South Korea: how 'trace, test and treat' may be saving lives. BBC. 2020. www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51836898.
10. Affo M. The US decided to make its own coronavirus test, but the process was plagued by errors and delays. Here's a timeline of what went wrong. Business Insider. 2020. www.businessinsider.com/us-coronavirus-testing-problems-timeline-2020-3.
11. Kupferschmidt K, Cohen J. Race to find COVID-19 treatments accelerates. www.science.sciencemag.org/content/367/6485/1412.
12. World Health Organization. "Media briefing on #COVID19 with @DrTedros. #coronavirus" March 27. 12:14 p.m. Tweet.
13. Food and Drug Administration. Enforcement policy for face masks and respirators during the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency: Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff. 2020. www.fda.gov/media/136449/download.