Overshadowed by COVID-19

December 2, 2020

I am both excited and humbled to step into the role of the 189th President of the New Hampshire Medical Society and would like to extend a thank you to the NHMS staff and membership for what was an enthusiastically warm welcome to this position at the NHMS Annual Conference earlier this month.

As I was preparing to make my first post to the NHMS President’s blog, I looked back at the list of topics that I created in the months leading up to assuming this role.  All are topics for which I am excited to engage. None, however, seemed appropriate to address in the current climate, as they are all overshadowed by the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges that lie ahead for us personally and collectively, as the physicians caring for our family, friends, colleagues and neighbors across New Hampshire.

Over the past week, reports have been increasingly troubling.  Last Friday marked the first day that new COVID cases in the United States over one day topped 200,000.  On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced the possibility of the country seeing a “surge upon a surge” in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday and resultant travel and socializing.  Then Monday, the Rhode Island governor announced the “hospitals are at capacity due to COVID”, that field hospitals will begin caring for additional patients, and that residents are advised to stay at home whenever possible for the next two weeks.

Through the last nine months, we have come quite some way in understanding how to care for our patients who contract COVID while protecting ourselves from the exposure. Today, for example, we understand with better clarity who may benefit from remdesivir and dexamethasone.  We have guidance for when it is appropriate to escalate the level of care needed and each hospital system has been through the exercise of finding where there is room to expand capacity to care for patients beyond typical capabilities. We now have experience within our own institutions regarding the pathways and equipment needed to care for those infected with COVID in ways that minimize our own exposures. The supply chain for obtaining trusted, medical-grade PPE has improved and hospital administrators have collaborated to allow knowledge and resources to be shared quickly and effectively.

However, I fear that this knowledge and experience we have gained will be put to the test as we see the signs of rising prevalence in our state to coincide with the news being reported in other regions of the country. The number of daily new cases in NH as reported by DHHS on Oct. 1 was 51, on Nov. 2 was 130, and at time of this posting was 622 on Dec. 1.  Below is a graphic of daily cases in NH over that time (the NH DHHS has a wonderful website with interactive graphs regarding testing and prevalence data, which can be found here).

The harbinger of greatest hope is the expected availability of a COVID vaccine.  There are indications that this vaccine may be available to healthcare providers and high-risk members of our communities as early as the end of the year.  However, as estimated recently by McKinsey and Company, attaining a threshold proportion of immunity in our society to successfully curb the trend of the pandemic will likely not occur until the second half of 2021.

In the days, weeks and months to come as we together rise to the challenge of meeting the growing pandemic on the frontlines, the Medical Society remains actively engaged at the federal, state, institution and individual practitioner levels to represent the voice of physicians in our state as policy is being developed, resources are allocated, and information is being disseminated.  In this spirit, we look to you, our members, for the feedback to help us be even more effective.

I will look forward to the opportunity to connect in the coming year – on both COVID-related issues and beyond.  Until then, may you, your families and loved ones be well and have a wonderful holiday season.

In solidarity,

G. Kenton Allen, MD, MBA
NHMS President

Please send comments or questions to Kenton.Allen@nhms.org.