March 13, 2020

What the CDC and US airlines are saying about travel

This article shares a comprehensive list of the policies and procedures each US airline is putting into effect because of the coronavirus outbreak, including policies around cancellation and change fees. After the CDC recommended that older adults and individuals with underlying conditions forgo long plane flights and crowded, enclosed spaces, airlines responded by emphasizing updated safety and cleaning procedures. Most airlines are also waiving flight cancellation and change fees for a limited time (note that there are specific caveats by airline and travel destination).

Veteran nurse vs. the coronavirus —

Lasana Bridges, a veteran LPN, has been travel nursing for years. She recently took up a travel role in Tacoma, Washington, prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. Given her experience working in nursing homes across the country, she said "she was more uncomfortable with her brother-in-law taking the bus to Seattle than her being at work." The virus is certainly not a welcome addition to conditions threatening her patients, but for now she believes "There’s no magic pill to take care of it. We’re just kind of stuck with this virus." However, it may not be that simple.

To properly care for the wider population, nurses need more support —

Us nurses are on the front line of defense against outbreaks like the coronavirus, but we're severely underprepared. From having to fight for access to N95 masks and PPE gear, being pulled out of quarantine early because of staffing shortages, and lacking up-to-date situation briefings, we're being let down by the healthcare system. Of the 6,500 nurses who participated in a recent survey, a meager 29% said their facility had an isolation plan in place for patients, while only 44% said they they were provided guidance from their facility on how to handle and prepare for the situation. Jenny Managhebi, a clinical nurse at UC Davis, summed it up: "If nurses aren't safe, then really our community isn't safe."

On a more uplifting note, the second person ever has been cured of HIV —

Back in 2007, we first discovered the possibility of using stem cell transplants to cure patients of HIV. Timothy Brown, known as the "Berlin Patient," was successfully cured of HIV when undergoing stem cell transplant for his acute myeloid leukemia. Now, 13 years later, a second patient has also been cured of HIV undergoing similar treatments. While this curative treatment is high risk and should only used as a last resort for patients with HIV who also have life threatening hematological malignancies, it does give us hope. Hope that, in the future, scientists may be able to use gene editing tools to treat and cure HIV.

Gates Foundation commits $100 million to speed up coronavirus treatments and response —

The Gates Foundation is ramping up its efforts to fight the COVID-19 outbreak with a substantial pledge of $100 million to fund detection methods, containment, and treatments for the virus. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard Launch are also committing to a combined total of $125 million dollars to fund research into COVID-19 treatments and drug development. This comes at a time when a vaccine could be crucial to preventing the spread of the virus. Who else is stepping in? Last week, the US government signed a $8.3 billion funding bill to help the CDC and other agencies in efforts to quell the spread of the virus via vaccines and approved treatments. In addition, the US government announced Wednesday night that insurance companies have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments and to extend insurance coverage to these treatments. They also assured that economic relief was on the way to those directly affected by the virus.

The modern patient is an empowered one —

Patients of today have access to more tools, information, and healthcare than ever before. Although the healthcare industry has historically been one of the slower industries to evolve with the times, a slew of more accessible information as well as novel startups are changing this. Today, patients are able to leverage digitals tools and personal technologies to drive indicators of their own wellbeing. Whether it's Amazon moving into the pharma space or Apple's ambitions to go beyond wearables like the Apple Watch, mature companies and startups alike are looking to build out the direct-to-consumer health space. Some rising characteristics of peoples' interactions with these companies include: the willingness to experiment, device usage, digital/physical integration, information savviness, and self-efficacy.

Play me a song, Piano Man —

Imagine being so good at playing piano that a group of scientists want to study your brain. Meet Matthew Whitaker, an 18 year old who has been blind since birth and had 11 surgeries before the age of two. Self-taught and playing two-handed compositions at the age of three, Matthew is now one of the most famous composers in the world. His extraordinary abilities attracted the attention of neuroscientist, Dr. Charles Limb, who approached him to study his brain's response to music. A series of MRIs found that Whitaker’s brain had purposed its own disused visual cortex in order to build other neurological pathways. Even when Whitaker was simply listening to one of his favorite bands, his entire visual cortex lit up: “It seems like his brain is taking that part of the tissue that’s not being stimulated by sight and using it … to perceive music. It’s sort of borrowing that part of the brain and rewiring it to help him hear music.” So, son, can you play me a memory?

For the latest news and updates on COVID-19 —

As advocates for the profession, we're committed to ensuring the safety and highlighting the bravery of all nurses, not just those we employ. We’ve compiled a real-time database of resources and information, which you can find here.

What we're reading & watching this week —

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (It has topped the The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2019 and the The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2020 for a combined 30 non-consecutive weeks).

Outlander on Netflix, starring Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, the story of a 20th century nurse who is mysteriously sent back in time to the Scottish Highlands during the 1700s. (It gets steamy, too.)

Clockin' Out ✌

This week in review: (1) We lost one hour of sleep on Sunday, (2) we had a full moon on Monday, and (3) today is Friday the 13th. What's next? Better grab your sage.