COVID-19: Children’s Health leadership update

May 19, 2020

Dear friends,

We hope this note finds everyone adjusting to the new normal and continuing to social distance. South Carolinians rose to the occasion and heeded stay at home messaging as evidenced by our manageable statewide number of COVID-19 patients. Our thoughts are with families who lost loved ones: may your grief be softened by fond memories. Sadly, the pandemic has greatly impacted families, communities, and livelihoods.

As we begin to move forward, recovery is now our focus and the message we will be conveying to the communities we all serve. As you may have recently read, our health system quickly converted to additional in- and out-patient safety policies and procedures such as: video/virtual visits, patients, visitors and care team members wearing masks, increased disinfecting of high-touch areas, no-touch appointment registration, at some locations patients wait in their car for a text to enter the building, limited appointment attendees, and many more safety measures.

In keeping with MUSC’s tripartite mission, we’d like to share our COVID-19 recovery efforts in patient care, clinical, and research as follows:

Patient care:

As the community moves forward to revitalize the economy, the possibility exists that a second group of COVID-19 patients may emerge as a result of relaxed social distancing restrictions, which could reverse or undermine any economic progress. To avoid this and help the statewide community move forward successfully, MUSC is actively engaged with state leadership on these five actions:

  • Staged revitalization – Developing and deploying a strategic staged revitalization of the economy, prioritizing the highest impact economic drivers that represent the lowest risk of second-round COVID-19 infection. 
  • Diagnostic testing – Continuing to develop our ability to test those who have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Antibody testing – Developing and deploying tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies will be key to protecting our patients and health care workforce and enabling our community businesses to move forward. An interdisciplinary team is implementing strategies to buy and validate rapid testing capability currently available, as well as simultaneously work with Clemson, UofSC and Prisma Health to build out even more capacity.
  • Contact tracing – Having a confidential system in place to identify and trace contacts and isolating individuals at risk. 
  • Protecting vulnerable populations – Ensuring that the most vulnerable, including the elderly, minority communities and persons with chronic disease and weakened immune systems, remain socially distanced, protected, and supported until the epidemic is well controlled.

Education:

Despite the pandemic, our mission to educate the next generation of pediatric physicians and continue to perform impactful research and discovery that help our patients has not taken a break. Pediatric trainees continue to provide excellent care to inpatients during this time as well as learn how to deliver ambulatory care directly to patient’s homes through telemedicine. This virtual experience will allow our future MUSC graduates to expertly utilize the power of technology to provide health care in a patient’s home.   

Research:

While children do not seem to be as severely affected by COVID-19, we remain committed to understanding as much as we can about this disease in order to discover the best future treatments. Our clinical researchers are participating in multiple registries along with dozens of other children’s hospitals across the United States. Combining our individual small volume experiences will create a much larger database to optimally understand how COVID-19 affects our country’s children.

For decades researchers in the Department of Pediatrics have been at the forefront of understanding the benefits of having a normal level of vitamin D in the body. There are now some indications that people with lower vitamin D levels who are infected with COVID-19 have a more severe course of disease. Given this, MUSC researchers are currently designing studies that will determine whether improving vitamin D levels in all ages of people might result in less severe COVID-19 symptoms.

MUSC Children’s Health proactively communicated these tripartite efforts with our community colleagues and will continue to communicate with your community providers. It will take a village to recover, but with your help and continued support, we will succeed. Please feel free to contact us if you have ideas regarding MUSC Health’s plans to lead South Carolina to recovery.

Thank you for all you do! Be safe and take care.

Mark Scheurer, M.D., and Andrew Atz, M.D.
MUSC Children’s Health