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Dr. Jeff Balser on flattening the curve and remaining prepared

Apr. 17, 2020, 10:00 AM

Hi, everyone.

Let me start by expressing my gratitude for the way you have supported one another and have risen to the challenge posed by Covid-19. Your courage, flexibility and hard work are having a tremendous impact.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD

First, it is clear we have experienced flattening of the curve in the Nashville area. That means we will still be handling COVID-19 cases for many months, and very likely in somewhat larger numbers than today, but we are greatly reducing the risk of having a surge of patients that would overwhelm us.

Second, because this pandemic is under better control, we are starting to plan how to reintroduce some additional health care activities at VUMC. We will need to be careful, and right now we are just planning and working closely with the leaders of our city and our state to determine the best approaches and the best timing.

Third, we must ensure we remain capable of handling a significant number of patients should transmission rates increase, as other countries have seen.

Through all of this, our clinical teams are providing incredible care for patients — both in person and increasingly via telehealth. Through your efforts, we have created a substantial COVID-19 surge capacity that is vital to protect this community, and we will need to maintain that capacity for some time.

Our research teams have been hard at work throughout this time, and I want to take a moment to applaud these efforts. Finding ways to manage and prevent COVID-19 is the goal for scientists around the world, and Vanderbilt stands out.

We announced last week that our Vaccine Center is partnering with AstraZeneca and other companies on antibody-based treatments. Our goal is to prepare antibodies for human clinical trials by early this summer — to be used for treatment, short-term prevention and serologic tests for COVID-19.

Additionally, we have played a major role in the development of remdesivir, a drug that is now in clinical trials here and elsewhere to treat Covid-19. And we are playing a leadership role in two trials looking at the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, a drug used for malaria. At the same time, like many centers, we are launching studies of plasma treatment from patients with prior COVID infections.

Our health policy department is frequently in the news, as they produce detailed models on COVID impact in Tennessee. Their research is informing the decisions of public health officials and policymakers at the state and local levels. Their work for Tennessee, and the findings of researchers across the globe, makes it clear that continued distancing is having a profound impact in limiting the spread of this virus.

So for now — we need to stay the course. Thank you for your dedication and hard work. What we are doing is working. Please continue to stay vigilant and safe.

We’ll talk again soon.

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