Dr. David J. Skorton: “If the nation does not change its course – and soon – deaths in the United States could well be into the multiple hundreds of thousands.”
Amid rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths this summer, the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) this week released “The Way Forward on COVID-19: A Road Map to Reset the Nation’s Approach to the Pandemic” to dramatically change the nation’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic and save lives.
The set of 11 evidence-based actions – both immediate and long-term – set forth a comprehensive, coordinated plan based on AAMC experts’ understanding of the pandemic as doctors, scientists, and medical educators, as well as the work the AAMC has done to help its member medical schools, teaching hospitals, and health systems respond to the pandemic on the frontlines.
“If the nation does not change its course – and soon – deaths in the United States could well be into the multiple hundreds of thousands,” said David J. Skorton, MD, president and CEO. “The nation urgently needs a decisive, coordinated strategy to save lives, restore the U.S. economy, and return our lives to a sense of normalcy.”
The AAMC road map consists of three particularly urgent recommendations:
- Invoke the Defense Production Act or other means to remedy critical laboratory supply and equipment shortages such as personal protective equipment, as well as set specific numerical targets for stockpiles of supplies in health care institutions, in local regions, and at the national level.
- Increase testing to 2.3 million tests per day and decrease turnaround times for testing by eliminating supply shortages and coordination problems, as well as through the use of point-of-care antigen testing and greater use of academic medical center labs.
- Establish national standards on face coverings to stop the spread, especially by asymptomatic individuals, and make them mandatory in areas of growing community spread.
Other recommendations for immediate actions include:
- Establishing and enforcing national criteria for local stay-at-home orders and reopening protocols.
- Establishing national criteria for K-12 school reopenings and establish a working group to study different approaches.
- Calling on Congress to expand, and at least partly subsidize, health insurance through COBRA for individuals who have lost jobs due to the pandemic.
- Beginning to plan now to prioritize distribution of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.
- Addressing and resolving health care inequities, including through better data collection.
- Engaging academic medical centers to serve as sources of authoritative and trusted information for the general public and in local communities.
The AAMC road map also identifies two longer-term, larger-scale changes that will improve the overall health of our nation. The first is to broaden health insurance coverage, because the epidemic has made clear that having a desire to work and the necessary skills may not be enough when employers are engaging in survival-focused reductions in force. It specifies expanding Medicaid in all 50 states, and, for those not eligible for Medicaid, establishing a federally subsidized insurance option for all individuals who earn less than a certain annual income. The second long-term action outlined in the road map is to strengthen the nation’s public health infrastructure, which has been underfunded for decades.
“Currently, we have a lot of recommendations from many highly qualified people around the country, but we also have a patchwork of responses at the state and local levels. Our road map aggregates the actions that need to happen, adds some specific, quantitative targets and timelines, and indicates where the responsibility for action lies,” Skorton said, adding: “Stopping the pandemic is everyone’s responsibility.”
The road map includes action steps for elected officials, health professionals, public health experts, the private and public sectors, academic medical centers, communities, families, and individuals.
AAMC member medical schools, teaching hospitals, and research-based professional organizations are among the health care institutions that have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, caring for patients, conducting testing for the virus, developing effective treatment protocols, and researching possible vaccines. Known collectively as the field of academic medicine, AAMC members are key sources of innovation in the nation’s health care system and institutions that are critical to the national response to the pandemic.
For more information, visit aamc.org/covidroadmap.