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6 months later: hospital shares pandemic lessons

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COVID-19 testing for the coronavirus. File photo.
COVID-19 testing for the coronavirus. File photo.

MADISON (WKOW) -- Six months ago, Wisconsin saw COVID-19 for the first time.

The cases were diagnosed in mid-March and a Safer at Home order was put into effect on March 25.

Now, local health systems are reflecting on what they've learned and what they're still trying to figure out, among those - a vaccine.

"Now, we're actually into a new realm," said SSM Health Wisconsin Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amy Franta. "How do we protect ourselves going forward that we couldn't do when the virus was new?"

Dr. Franta says they've learned a lot about how transmission works, as well as how people can protect themselves from the virus. That includes mask wearing, social distancing, and practicing good hygiene.

The health system continues to research which therapies are most effective against the virus. Dr. Franta says they've been studying Actemra, Remdesivir, as well as the effectiveness of convalescent plasma. The health system now knows hydroxychloroquine isn't effective. Dr. Franta says more work needs to be done.

"We do not have a lot of long-term hard data on the outcomes of these therapies," she said. "We do have some data on ones that we don't think really work. That's kind of where the hydroxychloroquine fell off of our treatment algorithms."

Doctors are also beginning to learn more about the long term effects of COVID-19, including inflammatory heart problems like thromboembolism. Patients are more prone to clotting, which can lead to strokes, or deep venous thrombosis, which involves a clot traveling from the legs to the lungs.

"I think this will continue to evolve, especially over the next six months or so as we get more data," said Dr. Franta.

Dr. Franta says telehealth has played a huge role in health care delivery since the beginning of the pandemic, and without the virus, telehealth may not be where it is today. 

"If there's something positive that's come out of the pandemic, its our ability to adapt and rapidly meet the needs of our patient populations. And telehealth is really an example that stands out."

SSM Health says they are now stocking up on personal protective equipment ahead of winter. Dr. Franta says they have plenty of those supplies, but they are beginning to run out of other supplies. She tells 27 News the shortage may be due to medical supply companies prioritizing the needs for the pandemic.

Dr. Franta says the health system is also planning for the potential for a “twin-demic” in the event of a serious influenza season. She recommends people continue to follow basic hygiene and social distancing.

Emily Friese

27 News Producer

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