I teach a lot of students who plan on careers in medicine — doctors and nurses. I keep hearing, though, that medical staffing is hitting a ceiling. The people we rely on to treat COVID-19 are vulnerable.
The coronavirus pandemic has tightened its grip on much of Africa, where reported cases have more than tripled over the last month, jeopardizing overstretched medical teams as the need for care soars.
From the pandemic’s early days, leaders across the continent urged prevention and took aggressive action — sealing borders, tracing contacts and building extra isolation wards — asserting that many places lacked the resources to withstand unchecked outbreaks.
Now African health officials and medical professionals are raising concerns about cracks in a crucial armor: Infections among health-care workers have shot up 203 percent since late May, according to the World Health Organization’s Africa arm, following a spike in community transmission and a drop in access to protective gear.
Africa, you say? Who cares? (Well, I would hope my audience wouldn’t say that). But it also hits close to home, with hospitals in Alabama, for instance, reaching capacity. Of course, “capacity” in this case is partly a function of staffing, not just the number of beds. As the pandemic spreads further, that means that effective capacity is going to gradually decline. Everything is going to get worse.
My university is opening in August. We’ve got plans to minimize contact — I’m going to be teaching all of my classes, except the labs, over Zoom — but I’m expecting we’ll shut down the labs, too. We have to keep the flow out of our pre-professional programs going, don’t you know!