With Lives at Stake, IDSA calls on White House to Follow and Support the Guidance of Our Nation’s Public Health Experts
Strong and specific federal guidance is critical to protecting our country, our communities, our health and our lives in the face of the still escalating impacts of COVID-19 across the United States. Federal support for the testing, contact tracing, infection control, and medical equipment needed on local levels to control this pandemic will be essential. We understand the economic pressures to re-open, but until we have widely available effective treatments and a safe and effective vaccine, policies that promote physical distancing are our best defense. When it is safe to reopen, state and local governments need specific, evidence-based guidance from our nation’s top public health agency outlining the steps necessary to keep our population safe.
Together, this country will need to mitigate the effects of the virus, including the severe economic impacts it has delivered. We must continue to support all who have been affected by the economic downturn as we work to put in place the resources needed to safely re-open.
To backpedal now from the public health measures recommended by administration experts, without evidence or resources indicating it is safe to do so, would be dangerously irresponsible.
In the absence of a more detailed federal plan:
- More than half of our states are easing social distancing measures and many have not met the criteria for safely doing so, including the White House recommendation for a 14-day consecutive downward trend in cases.
- Guidance is needed that addresses the unique needs and transmission risks associated with different sectors of education, business, the service industry, and places of worship.
- We have witnessed the impacts of this virus on essential workers on the frontlines in hospitals, public transportation systems, grocery stores and food plants who have not been able to physically distance themselves from others.
As the leading association of infectious diseases specialists and frontline health providers, we have issued three sets of guidelines citing the need to apply the highest standards to COVID-19 treatment, infection control and diagnosis, and highlighting continuing gaps in knowledge surrounding this novel virus, and the tools to fight it. In addition we have recommended criteria for the evidence, resources and steps needed for our country to safely return to the routines of work, education, and recreation disrupted by this pandemic.
We will need funding, tools and supply chains that allow:
- Diagnostic testing and surveillance for the virus at adequate levels in all health jurisdictions;
- Abilities to isolate and treat all who are diagnosed, and trace their contacts;
- Adequate health care workforce and supplies at all health facilities;
- The ability to maintain appropriate physical distancing in all settings where people work;
- Proven, effective treatment and a protective vaccine.
To reach those goals we will need:
- A federal strategy and resources ensuring widespread implementation of testing, contract tracing, and personal protective equipment across the country;
- A federal strategy and resources to ensure the manufacturing and appropriate distribution of personal protective equipment and testing supplies over for the long-term;
- Federal leadership and funding to support an accurate and reliable national surveillance system to inform our response in the short and long-term;
- And, with health systems cutting salaries and furloughing staff, we will need federal support to maintain a strong and ready public health workforce.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America asks the administration to put the health of all people, the safety of our workforce, and the tools of science, medicine and public health foremost in its responses to COVID-19.
Thomas M. File, Jr., M.D., FIDSA — President, Infectious Diseases Society of America
Judith Feinberg, M.D., FIDSA — Chair, HIV Medicine Association