Originally Posted on Medium - March 1st 2020

Discussions around healthcare have evolved from political talking points to our very own survival. Walking around cities, large or small, all across America, we can already see the impact of a pandemic scare. In airports, restaurants, schools, and offices, we see masked people trying to protect their health from a highly contagious virus.


 In an election year, Democrats and Republicans alike often talk about the state of the race for the White House, while we everyday civilians have to face the fact that we are losing the race against a virus.


 We have failed to contain a virus that escaped an inland city in China, and now within the United States, community spread — where the virus infects people who neither traveled to infected areas nor came into contact with someone who did — is no longer a threat but a reality.


 While attempting to understand the massive failure to contain the outbreak of the virus (named “SARS-CoV-2”) and the disease it causes “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”), we should understand that local measures are helpful, but to avoid a catastrophic pandemic we need to face a threat for what it is.


 A coalition of global health experts coordinating the efforts and response to this outbreak is warranted. That means we should request massive emergency funding to assist the CDC and reverse the previous Federal budget cuts. That is to say that we need to expedite the delivery of testing kits to multiple cities across the country and include them in all points of entry. 


 While California has 40 million people, reports showed that the state has access to only 200 coronavirus test kits. We also need immediate public disclosures of all positive cases in every county. There’s absolutely no reason not to disclose this data. Contact tracing strategies are needed to understand if the increasing numbers of cases are due to community spread or by exposure to infected travelers.


 One implication of the Covid-19 outbreak is that it could raise public opinion in favor of a public option for healthcare and more effective expansion of the Affordable Care Act. We need swift and active measures to ensure that every American has access to care and treatment.

 

 With human-to-human contamination spread across communities, gates will not protect those who do not travel or stay at home. If a crisis was warranted for people to realize the importance of public health, the time has come.


 Johnson & Johnson joined forces with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to accelerate the development of a potential Novel Coronavirus vaccine. One silver lining is that the vaccine, once developed, will turn the public opinion slowly against anti-vaxxers.


 Worldwide, almost 3.000 people have died from causes related to the infection of the coronavirus. While this accounts for roughly 2 percent of the infected population, it is crucial to understand who the most vulnerable group of people is.

 

 People with diabetes and other chronic medical conditions like cardiovascular disease and cancer are prone to worse prognosis if they become infected with the Covid-19. More than 100 million adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes in the United States, which may increase their risk of infection two-to-threefold.


 Scientists investigating the prevalence of this disease have found that the death rate among men was 2.8 percent, compared with 1.7 percent among women. Although so far, we have no reported cases of infection of pregnant women, we do know that they experience immunologic and physiologic changes. Those changes might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19.


Elderly and immunocompromised individuals are particularly vulnerable to infections and account for a large group of people. Over 15 percent of the U.S. population is 65, and approximately 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. We need to implement strategies that protect them and ensure that they have access and priority of care.


While the origin of the virus is still unclear, we do know that it may stay alive for over 9 days on hard surfaces. Washing our hands, not touching our nose and mouths, and covering up our coughs are actions we all should undertake daily to prevent the common cold and the flu. In preventing a pandemic that has affected over 90,000 people in just a couple of months, we should be doing more than ordering masks.

As a community, we should pressure our government to be transparent about the active cases, facilitate access to testing, and gather experts to implement a coalition to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

As residents of this great country, we are nothing short of an extensive network of friends and family.

I urge you to care about each other enough to speak up and pressure our lawmakers to take active measures to minimize the damage of this uncontrolled disease.

Dr. Leo Nissola, M.D., Auth.

Medical Doctor, Scientist, Published book author in Immunology.

Clinical Scientist  at The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and pro-bono Health Advisor to the Project COVIDACTNow.org