June 26, 2020

An update from our Chief Medical Officer:

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to require our close attention and ongoing vigilance. On Wednesday the US case count reached a new record high and over half the states now show increasing numbers, including QualDerm markets in GA, NC and SC. This is not a new 2nd wave but rather a prolongation of the initial outbreak with a rebound in places that have reopened and/or loosened prior restrictions earlier. Some argue that increasing cases are due to more testing, which thankfully is definitely occurring. How each state records cases and assembles its data varies so some comparisons are difficult. And there is some evidence that many of the new diagnoses are in younger people who tend to both socialize more but also fare much better with infection. But, in many regions the hospitalizations are also increasing which would tend to support that the spread is not just confined to the young and active, with a potential for deaths to increase in a few weeks as hospitals and ICUs reach capacity, like in Houston.

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The good news is that we know what to do and have experience in effectively flattening the curve. Numerous studies have shown that universal mask wearing along with social distancing, hand washing and staying home when sick can and will reduce spread and we need to remain committed to these simple but life-saving measures. If we all do our part, we can keep our economies running, our practices caring for patients and our populations safe.  I know that fatigue is setting in and we are all weary of this entire COVID-19 situation. But please continue to emphasize to your patients, co-workers and families and friends the importance of these safety measures both at home and especially at work. These minor inconveniences will help us all get to the finish line faster and with less economic and health impacts. If this is the challenge of our generation, wearing a mask is a lot easier than fighting a war.

Many local municipalities and even states like North Carolina have recently enacted orders for universal mask wearing in public, which has heightened concerns about the safety of masks. I include here an infographic from the World Health Organization about the well-proven safety of prolonged mask wearing along with a link to “myth-busters’ about the coronavirus that is very informative. Indeed, I can recall in medical school assisting in a cardiac surgery that lasted 9 hours without any breaks and I am still here. I also include a link to the American Academy of Dermatology recommendations for preventing and treating skin irritation from masks. I know it can be uncomfortable at times so these tips will help. Finally, I also provide a link to a very practical and pragmatic approach to living your fullest life while reducing your risks of infection until we develop treatments and vaccines and emerge from this crisis. To quote Apoorva Mandavilli, a science reporter, “There are ways to be responsible and socialize, but people don’t seem to be able to draw the line between what’s OK and what is not. For too many people it seems to be binary – they are either on lockdown or taking no precautions.”

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A reminder to everyone as summer has officially begun that QDP has a Travel Policy found on the shared drive that serves to help protect all employees, our practices and patients from additional risks. Please be mindful of your travel plans and aware of local community conditions, restrictions and quarantine requirements. For example NY, NJ and CT now require all visitors from ‘hot spots’ (like many of our QDP sites) to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Also, please investigate your vacation destination and plan accordingly to avoid missing work or increasing your risk of infection during either travel itself or while away. We can all still enjoy a break and be safe doing so. Also, I would be remiss as a dermatologist not to remind everyone to stay ‘sun safe’ this summer!

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John Albertini, MD