The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently released a road map that includes numerous evidence-based actions that would assist in the approach to how the United States tackles COVID-19, both immediate and in the long-term.
In the six months since the novel coronavirus came to the United States, nearly 150,000 people have died and more than four million have been confirmed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It has preyed on the most vulnerable in our nation (including older people, people with underlying medical conditions, people of color, people experiencing homelessness, people who are incarcerated, people with low incomes, and others). It also strikes and kills children, young adults, and people in the prime of life with no underlying conditions, and leaves some with long-term, lingering symptoms. Perhaps most troubling is its ability to spread asymptomatically through some individuals. This seeming randomness and unpredictability is stoking fear, confusion, mistrust, and division about the way forward.
Despite working together as a nation to “flatten the curve,” the United States is experiencing troubling new waves of infection. Instead of declining, the numbers of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, especially among vulnerable groups and communities of color, are growing rapidly. Particularly worrisome are the increases in infections among people in their 20s and 30s, who play a pivotal role in spreading the virus to older and other vulnerable populations. If the nation does not change its course — and soon — deaths in the United States could be well into the multiple hundreds of thousands.
Decisive, coordinated action is urgently needed to save lives, end the pandemic, restore America’s economy, and return our lives to normalcy. It is critical that the United States takes a united approach to the pandemic.
The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) offers the following road map to reset the nation’s approach to the pandemic. The AAMC has as its members all 155 accredited medical schools in the United States and 17 in Canada, more than 400 teaching hospitals and health systems, and more than 70 academic societies. Collectively known as “academic medicine,” these institutions and their leaders, physicians, scientists, health care teams, learners, and staff have been among the many health care professionals on the frontlines of the pandemic, caring for patients, testing for the virus, developing effective treatment protocols, and researching possible vaccines. As one of the key sources of innovation in the nation’s health care system, academic medicine is critical to ensuring that this battle will be won. But to succeed, we must act together and now.
This plan focuses on a set of immediate, evidence-based, commonsense actions the AAMC believes is essential to contain the virus and end the pandemic by addressing critical shortages, improving and broadening testing, reducing the virus’s spread, reopening schools safely, expanding health insurance coverage, and prioritizing distribution of the vaccine. It also identifies longer-term actions that must be taken to protect and strengthen public health, reduce health disparities, and improve the overall health of our nation and its people.
Physicians and scientists from America and across the globe have cured polio and most childhood cancers and infections. We have reduced deaths from heart disease and stroke and developed better treatments for diabetes and kidney failure. We routinely transplant organs and cells, use robots for surgery, remove brain tumors with minimally invasive procedures, and perform surgery on babies while they are still in the womb.
We are up to this challenge, and so is our nation if we — our elected officials, doctors and scientists, public health experts, the private and public sectors, communities, families, and each of us as individuals — work together at the national, state, and local levels.