When the pandemic broke out for the first time in early 2020, America was not prepared for the chaos that would follow. About a year later, with new beginnings in mind, now is the right time to take a look back and learn from both the rights and the wrongs of last year, if only to ensure that the wrong steps are not repeated, and the right ones are not forgotten.
Wrong: Misjudging the Situation
America was not alone in their initial reluctance to take the situation seriously enough, as Italy, Spain and several other nations from all around the world also made the same mistake. Nevertheless, in what is likely the worst case of underestimation in the history underestimations, proper steps were not taken in time to control the pandemic from spreading when there was still time to do so.
Although that time is well in the past now, it is imperative that such a mistake is not repeated in any of the fifty states in 2021. Vaccinations need to be administered to all vulnerable age groups in time, and additional preparations should be made to keep the situation under control. Steps taken to control the epidemic during emergency conditions should not be immediately retracted, as newer strains of the virus with possible immunity to available vaccines are being reported this year. The United States has more people on the list of infected individuals than any other country in the world as of early 2021, and that is not likely to change anytime soon. It should be noted that conditions have improved, and death rates did drop significantly in time, but the early mistakes are still proving difficult to catch up with.
Right: Lifting Limitations on Nurse Practitioners
Nurse practitioners are highly qualified and experienced, advanced practice nurses, who proved to be of invaluable use during a time when the states were facing the worst situation. Multiple states waived off all practice agreement requirements for NPs to allow them a fair chance at dealing with the worsening situation. Multiple other states were also forced to do so later, although they did not agree to it during the initial stages. Even states with much stricter regulations on NPs and other APRNs decided to waive a large number of previous requirements in their desperation for handling the emergency situation.
Never before was the lack of available medical professionals made so obvious in multiple states, but due to the emergency waivers, FNPs in particular, alongside various other APRNs, managed to continue providing care to patients in both rural and urban settings. As this post on the roles and importance of family nurse practitioners in healthcare settings points out, all qualified FNPs are expert medical practitioners, trained to be proficient in disease prevention & control, human physiology, diagnosis, diagnostic methods, prescribing medications and even suggesting alternative treatment options to their patients. The fact that such prudent skills of the nurse practitioners could have been used to control the situation much earlier is something that should not be forgotten. Now that they have helped in getting the out of control situation back into control, at least to some degree in the last few months, it remains to be seen how lenient states remain in 2021. If the waivers are pulled back and previous restrictions are implemented once again on nurse practitioners, then that would be the same as taking a step backwards.
Right: Every Patient had Access to a Ventilator
The country’s immense medical and financial resources came together later on, and out of the many actions they took to reduce death rates internally, the availability of ventilator machines for every patient saved more lives than can be estimated. However, multiple machines never came to be used, creating a surplus supply of the life-saving machines. The President had earlier mentioned that surplus machines will now be sent to nations most in need of ventilators for fighting their own internal battle with covid. While the worst imagined scenario did not materialize in this respect, the availability of excess ventilators did display a sense of preparedness that was missing earlier.
Wrong: Inadequate Supply of PPE for Healthcare Workers
Although this is more an extension of the former mistake of ignoring the situation, it cannot be denied that when the need for PPE was at its highest point during the pandemic, gloves, N-95 respirators and other PPE were not available to the medical workers in sufficient quantities. Avoidable infections and consequent loss of important medical personnel did occur because of that.
In future, such instances can be avoided by not giving up on producing/procuring the necessary equipment, even if the need to do so may seem minimal at the moment. In hindsight, it should also be noted that most nations also faced a lack in their supply of protective equipment due to complete internal lockdowns, cessation of international imports and a general lack of experience in dealing with such a catastrophic situation. Even then, the nations that did act the earliest, turned out to also be the ones to overcome those difficulties before others that did not heed the warning signs in time.
By far, the biggest achievement of as a nation in the face of a global pandemic would have to be the fact that American multinational pharmaceutical giant Pfizer made the first effective vaccine available to the public. It was co-created by Pfizer, based primarily on the vaccine developed by BioNTech, which is a German company, and the sole partner of Pfizer in this journey. As of now, it remains to be seen how effective the vaccine turns out to be in public, but it has proven to be highly effective in clinical trials (90%), as far as preventing the 2019 strain of covid is concerned.
There are lessons to learn from the past for multiple nations around the globe, but with vaccines, firsthand knowledge, and ongoing research to eliminate all strains of covid permanently, the future is looking a lot brighter for everyone than it did even a few months ago.