April 29, 2020
We thank you for the confidence you continue to provide as we look forward to the future with more optimism. Welcome to our 9th letter. As time goes on, we are feeling less like this is an emergency and more like abnormal is the new normal. Ultimately, we are preparing for the long-term, life with COVID-19, and are focused on opening up the Medical Center and ancillary services, some over the coming days, some over the weeks ahead.
We’ve seen the inpatient COVID-19 volumes rise and fall, between 6 and 16 inpatients, throughout the last week. The hospital and county are testing in higher volumes. Whenever testing increases, so will the total number of people who eventually test positive. Yet, the percentage of positives to negatives remains consistent (about 95% negative) while the number of patients requiring hospitalization becomes inconsistent.
So, let’s explain what’s going on by turning to our Director of Infectious Disease, Dr. Dezfuli. He says, “The single biggest contributor toward how fast we can move to opening up the valley and ease social distancing is a rapid scale-up in all states of testing. Testing is the name of the game. Social distancing is definitely working. The fact that the numbers are flattening rather than falling conveys the need for cautiousness. Most directives regarding reopening require that case numbers fall for 14 days before loosening restrictions. There is a lot of media attention surrounding antibody testing – or serological/blood antibody tests. These tests detect the body’s immune response to the infection caused by the virus. Unfortunately, the test may not be as accurate as we would like. Some patients don’t develop antibodies for days after being infected, and some not at all. In addition, we do not know how long the antibodies remain in the body of a patient. Currently we use nasopharyngeal swabs, which are very sensitive, but in short supply. Ultimately, Eisenhower will continue to use the swab testing method because it remains the gold standard and we have more confidence in the results.”
Of course we want more testing. It will generate important data about the number of cases we have had in the Coachella Valley, and help our health care community trace and contain new outbreaks. However, none of the alternative test options, including self-swab tests, are quite ready to be used, at the accuracy level we require.
Financially, we are holding our own, in good part because of philanthropy. Our Board, including our Chairman Greg Renker, and our incoming Chairman, Mike Shannon, have led the way for a new philanthropic “recovery” initiative to help Eisenhower remain strong through what has become a financial crisis. This initiative is asking for leadership gifts to help keep the hospital a place of excellence – post-COVID. To date, their personal efforts and philanthropy, along with the leadership of Dennis and Phyllis Washington, is very encouraging. We look for providing details in our next letter. Today, the Los Angeles Times featured Eisenhower in two articles (see links below), one on their front page and one in the California section about two of our patients, who endured this terrible disease. Our continued best wishes go out to you, Sandra and Bob Borns.
Grateful is a good word for how we feel. We are three of the most grateful people right now – as we look at what each of you have been doing to help your families, your businesses, and your hospital. Our hearts are full. You are great Americans and we are proud to serve you.