Experts say doctors across the United States have learned from the COVID-19 outbreak in the spring and plan to use their findings to keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed if there’s a second coronavirus outbreak in the fall, ABC News reports.
“If there is a second wave in September, we will be protecting our patients and our staff in better ways, and will have the knowledge of the first wave to guide us in the best ways to treat patients,” Dr. Bill Jaquis, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told ABC News.
In the spring, hospitals were overwhelmed by the surge in COVID-19 infections because they were still learning the signs of the virus to look out for, they weren’t sure what kinds of treatment would help infected patients, and they didn’t have enough supplies like protective gear.
Now, hospitals reportedly have learned the warning signs of more severe COVID-19 cases, have a better idea of what medication and procedures treat the virus effectively, and have already planned to stock up on personal protective equipment.
Dr. Josh Sharfstein, an assistant dean at Bloomberg School of Public Health, told ABC News that besides ordering significant amounts of protective gear, hospitals have plans to “increase intensive care and ventilator capacity.”
After treating nearly 2 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. by early June, doctors now know that medications like Remdesivir reduce hospital stays, while hydroxychloroquine could make patients worse. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced at the end of May that production of Remdesivir has ramped up, and new shipments have already begun to arrive in the U.S.
Additionally, antibody therapy looks more promising as a longer-term treatment until scientists develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Azar told ABC News there are currently three promising strategies: using convalescent plasma, “hyper immunoglobulin,” or monoclonal antibodies.
The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project says the use of convalescent plasma involves collecting blood from a recovered COVID-19 patient, separating it into plasma filled with coronavirus antibodies, and administering it to sick patients.
Hyper immunoglobulin involves “commercially processing plasma donations from multiple people to create a more consistent and powerful antibody treatment,” according to Azar.
Meanwhile, monoclonal antibodies are antibodies that are not produced in humans, according to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. Doctors use this kind of antibody therapy to treat asthma, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. While it’s easier to create than the other strategies, the production of monoclonal antibodies is more expensive, and its benefits only last 90 days.
Dr. James E. Crowe, director of Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, told ABC News he believes antibody therapy could become available to patients by the end of 2020.
“Most people think of antibodies as a bridge because they give us immunity for a period of time until vaccines are ready,” said Crowe.