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COVID-19 Daily: High-Risk Specialties, Flu Comparisons

What your doctor is reading on Medscape.com:

MAY 14, 2020 –Here are the coronavirus stories Medscape’s editors around the globe think you need to know about today: 

Which Specialists Are Most at Risk From COVID-19?

New survey data of resident physicians in New York revealed that anesthesiology, emergency medicine, and ophthalmology were the specialties associated with the highest risk of contracting COVID-19. The close proximity between ophthalmologists and their patients, as well as evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can be spread through the eyes, helps explain that specialty’s surprising inclusion in the most at-risk group. 

The survey is not considered a definitive account, considering variables such as PPE availability and use, hospital protocols, and physician experience. However, the authors hope that the information could provide some indication of specialties that may require increased protection should a second wave of COVID-19 occur. 

Comparing COVID-19 to Flu “Dangerous”

A direct comparison of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza death tolls is not appropriate, according to a new report. One of the coauthors, Jeremy Samuel Faust, MD, explains that comparing the two numbers is “extremely dangerous” because flu death counts are inherently overestimates, whereas COVID-19 deaths are determined from actual counts. 

“Comparing them ― as so many people in this country have done ― to try to diminish the impact of SARS-CoV2 is not fair,” he told Medscape Medical News

The authors argue that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) routinely overestimates flu deaths, describing uncertainty about mortality causes among elderly populations and a desire to increase motivation for vaccination. The CDC’s own website acknowledges that it “does not know the exact number of people who have been sick and affected by influenza.” 

The researchers conclude that, by virtually any metric proposed, COVID-19 is demonstrably deadlier than the flu.

How Much Income Will Physicians Lose Because of COVID-19?

The first glimpses of just how much COVID-19 will affect physician incomes are coming into view. Private practices are most at risk, according to Travis Singleton, senior vice president at Merritt Hawkins, a physician search firm. 

“They don’t have a financial cushion, and will start seeing big drops in revenue at the end of May,” he said. Although physicians employed at larger facilities may have been somewhat shielded from the financial impacts of COVID-19, that protection could be ending, as the suspension of elective surgeries finally takes its toll.

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