Letter from the Chairman, December 2020

Dear Readers,

I had hoped that this letter would be welcoming everyone to a happy holiday season with COVID-19 behind us and with life getting back to normal.  Instead, we are experiencing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.  Our hospitals are full, elective surgeries are being halted, and some areas of the country are going back into lockdown to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus. 

What happened?

People began to disregard the basic facts about the virus.  Face masks, eye shields, social distancing, and handwashing became politicized.  People in leadership positions failed to reiterate these preventative measures’ importance, or, in some cases, did not publicly support them. So, we are back to where we started in our efforts to control COVID-19.

Now we have another glimmer of hope — the COVID-19 vaccines which, under accelerated development, will likely become available starting in December 2020. Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca/Oxford are leading the way in the vaccine effort.  They will submit Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) applications to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for review.  Some companies have contracts with vaccine producing companies like the Serum Institute of India to produce billions of vaccine doses.  Vaccination challenges will include how the vaccine is distributed, who gets it first, and whether people will take it.

The future looks bright, with vaccines and curative monoclonal antibody therapies.  These COVID-19 countermeasures can help reduce the effects of the virus, keep patients out of the hospitals, and allow home monitoring of COVID-19 patients.  This way, our hospitals can still take care of cardiac disease, cancers, and other infections. Schools, learning centers, businesses, travel companies, and vacation sites can recover, and we can slowly return to normal life.  

We have learned so much about infectious disease in the past few months.  It is my hope that we will retain some of the lessons learned — like frequent hand washing, and even perhaps friendly masks when we are in very close encounters with crowds of people. Maybe influenza can be curtailed?

Please stay safe and have a thoughtfully protective holiday season.

Mike Ramsay, M.D.
Chairman, Patient Safety Movement Foundation
Past President, Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, Dallas, TX