When UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson was in medical school and in his early career, he witnessed a catastrophic health care pandemic similar to today’s coronavirus outbreak. It was HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, but the way it played out was much different.
“The closest approximation was HIV, but that was slow-motion, and this [COVID-19] is warp speed, and that’s the big difference here,” Patterson said in a Talk Business & Politics interview.
The UAMS chief who has been front-and-center at many of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s daily press conferences, said it will get much worse in Arkansas before it gets better, even with the major restrictions the governor is putting to limit human interaction and commerce.
“The numbers are absolutely going to go up. That’s entirely predictable. We’ve been saying that since we had the first case in the state of Arkansas. And frankly, they may bounce around a little bit as the availability of testing changes,” Patterson said. “If reagent constraints decrease, the amount of testing that occurs, the numbers might go down because of that. As we make more testing available within the state, that might make the numbers go up. So, the number from day-to-day may not be an accurate reflection of the amount of transmission that’s going on… It’s a lagging indicator. And really, what we hope to see is that moment where we see a consistent plateau. And that plateau is going to appear in the cases that we detect probably a week or more after we’ve actually contained the virus.”
Shortages in test kits and personal protective equipment will make it harder for frontline health care workers to examine and treat patients, although new supplies are on the way. Patterson said one area where the U.S. will have to see improvement going forward involves supply chain transparency.
“I think the place where we could have done better nationally is we, as end users of this, have not gotten good information about the supply chain and about when things would be drying up. We’re going to have to do a better job the next time something like this happens. We can’t know the day of that the nation is running out of a supply,” he said.
President Donald Trump has suggested that a cure for COVID-19 may be in the works and that existing drugs, such as chloroquine, may have some promise in treating the virus. Patterson said everything possible needs to be tried, but it must be done in a responsible manner.
“We need to look at all of them. I think we also have to be careful though that we don’t create runs on these drugs, which, as we were just talking about, you have supply chain issues with them just as well,” Patterson said. “So, I think it’s important to be judicious and not just to throw something at the wall because you think that it might stick. The mainstay of treatment for this will be the same as the mainstay of treatment for a severe influenza infection, which is supportive care, respiratory care.”
You can watch Dr. Patterson’s full interview in the video below.