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Law Updates

Coronavirus Update #2: Containment Failure: What Happens Now?

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It’s official. The US has failed to contain the coronavirus as of March, 2020. Last month, I warned about the need for containment. But that didn’t happen so now what?

Well, we have to be ready for a quarantine order and self isolation. What are the legal issues surrounding a pandemic? I am a lawyer who has sued hospitals for lack of infection control. Despite the hope that our hospitals are prepared for an outbreak, I am concerned about the ability of our hospitals to contain the spread of this highly contagious disease. The hospital is the most dangerous place to be during an outbreak. Many hospitals have not invested in adequate infection control. So if you get sick, you might consider avoiding the hospital if possible. Hospitals are the epicenter of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections and virus transmittal. Nurses are understaffed, infectious disease protocols are not followed and healthcare workers do not have infection control equipment. Currently, the united states has a shortage of facemasks to provide to healthcare workers.

Why do we not have enough N95 respirators or facemasks for first responders, health care workers or family members who are taking care of loved ones? We need hazmat suits, gloves, gowns, respirators, facemasks, sanitizers and ICU units ready for the potentially thousands of people who come down with COVID-19. We need to shore up manufacturing to produce the necessary infection control equipment to battle this COVID-19 outbreak.

We should not be dependent on other countries to manufacture the equipment we need for this pandemic war. The federal government just passed a spending package to combat coronavirus. They went all in on betting they can give money to drug companies to develop a vaccine. That is nice, but in the short run, the people need an investment into manufacturing respirators, training health care workers and establishing dedicated hospital with enough respirators to support the thousands of people who could get sick. Before this outbreak happened in 2020, hospitals were failing to institute adequate policies and procedures to prevent the spread of infections. Hospitals have become a very dangerous place to be sick. We are being told to self isolate. What does that look like?

If you become ill, don’t even try to get a test to determine if it is the coronavirus because there are not enough tests to go around. So, you should probably just assume it is COVID-19 and self isolate. How long will you need to stay quarantined? Nobody really knows, but if you are coughing, you should probably stay home. This virus stays alive on surfaces for up to 9 days. That is astounding. Assume it is transmitted by surfaces and air. Apparently, it can be killed by bleach, so disinfectants are helpful. Hopefully this outbreak eventually slows down, but the takeaway should be that we need to be better prepared for future pandemics. Stay safe out there!

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