There are many thoughts experienced when trying to absorb news on the global pandemic, COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019). Are we overreacting? How concerned should I be? Is that lady with the truck bed full of toilet paper on to something or just too panicked? The news says to calm down, but also the NBA, NHL, and MLB have all altered their seasons. The truth is, we have struggled with how to field this as a brand new pharmacy for a few weeks now. Last night it sunk in – we are about to open a pharmacy, a brand new business, amid a healthcare and economic crisis. There is no way around it, the coronavirus is here and it is overwhelming our healthcare workers. As it stands now, most healthcare systems in the US are not equipped for the volume of active infections that could arise if no interventions are made. Our initial thoughts were to postpone our grand opening until May due to foot traffic being decreased, but after much deliberation have decided that there is probably not going to be a better time to show our community how much we care. This week let’s talk about what COVID-19 is, how our community can come together, and how your local pharmacy plans to show up committed to playing our part.
Depending on how much media you consume and what outlets you frequent, you might be have just heard the hysteria and missed what COVID-19 actually is. Coronavirus Disease 2019 is part of a large family of viruses that are common in humans and many species of animals. Scientists originally thought the virus was the result of a zoonotic event (animal to human transmission) but now are unsure exactly how this particular mutation occurred. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath appearing 2-14 days after exposure. The CDC summarizes as follows: “The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at high risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.” If you are thinking that this sounds a lot like the flu, you would be correct. If you are thinking that symptoms appearing 14 days after exposure seems unusual, you are also correct. The way the virus presents itself in the population is one of the main reasons this virus in particular is getting so much attention. Some of the buzz terms surrounding coverage of COVID-19 are “flattening the curve”and “social distancing”. We believe this virus is spread by respiratory droplets that can be shared from up to 6 ft away, not something unusual for pathogens. We commonly suggest that people infected or those that think they are infected do logical things like: limit contact with others, cover your mouth/nose when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands more than regularly. Obviously those things apply here, but the period from transmission to symptom presentation is longer than most threats we face making “social distancing” important in combating the spread of COVID-19. For this reason alone, we have seen a massive wave in the cancelation of large gatherings and lots of guidance on self-quarantining. This is not an overreaction and will go a long way in “flattening the curve”. The curve(s) refers to a spike in cases that would normally occur over a set period of time – that “curve” peaks sharply in transmission modeling that assumes no change in behavior. Conversely, if measures like the above are taken, that curve does not peak as sharply over the same amount of time – it flattens. There is no escaping that there will be a large amount of people infected by this virus, however we can adjust the intensity of how many over what time by taking advice on social distancing and contact reduction. Curbing the amount of people being treated by our healthcare teams at any given time is paramount and acknowledging that COVID-19 should change some of our behavior is a big first step.
While retail pharmacy does not have a direct role in treating patients who have been hospitalized due to the virus, we can have an enormous impact on contact reduction. The general population will need their maintenance medications whether they are infected or not, therefore pharmacies could be one of the main drivers in education and system implementation. Independent pharmacies are poised to change workflow quickly, adapt to new policies overnight, and test new modes of service better than any other type of pharmacy. Did we plan financially for a global pandemic to overlap our grand opening? No, but let’s do this. We have a plan to introduce our community to Front Range Pharmacy in a meaningful way while minimizing your exposure to COVID-19. We have brainstormed ways to reduce your unnecessary contact with others should Denver become severely affected. We can deliver to your door. We can bring your meds to your car. We can pack your meds into our DayPacks and reduce your pharmacy visits. We can be your source for updates and education on the pandemic. We are working hard to bring all of these services to life – some much sooner than when we originally planned. We have said before that a strength in being an independent pharmacy is being nimble, and we look forward to being the most flexible and accommodating option you have. While we are anxious to get our doors open, we are striving to do this the right way with the right resources. COVID-19 has definitely changed the context of our grand opening, but we see an opportunity to serve our community in a way not currently offered. A novel threat deserves a novel response – we hope that you will give us the opportunity to be a resource you love and can count on. We are preparing to open our doors differently than we originally imagined and will use the next couple of weeks to perfect our approach. Next week we are announcing our grand opening date, and we can’t wait to serve you.