Infectious disease expert Dr. Catherine Cavanaugh talks COVID-19

Tue, 04/14/2020 - 8:45am

    With Lincoln County having among the eldest population in the eldest state, the fears of COVID-19’s potential for rapid and rampant disaster are very real. LincolnHealth infectious disease expert Dr. Catherine Cavanaugh, DO, one of many Lincoln County health professionals on the front lines of the pandemic, spoke to the issue in a phone interview with the Boothbay Register.

    While age is not a factor in how the virus spreads, it is one of many factors with the fatality rate, and is a factor in why people need to continue to take those precautions seriously.

    “In a denser area elders are kind of more tinder for the fire in a way … (and) certainly age could be a factor in the severity of illness … (but) Maine acted pretty early and I think most people have been very respectful of social distancing. I think that's had a huge impact in a good way.”

    And Cavanaugh said LincolnHealth has been doing its best to assess cases, execute essential care, work with other hospitals and support local emergency medical services.

    “As a hospital incident command (HIC), we've been meeting for the last 30 days just in anticipation of a surge which may yet come in the next week or two. But hopefully with the measures people are taking, it won't be overwhelming.”

    Cavanaugh said research continues and new information comes in daily. “Almost every day there are clinical updates and things we're learning about management or prevention and so forth … What's been a beautiful thing out of this is that people are sharing that information globally and just trying to help one another out. Then we adapt with that information.”

    One example Cavanaugh gave for major developments is that COVID-19 patients should not be intubated or put on ventilators as early as best practice has been dictating for weeks. Without those global networks of researchers and professionals, many hospitals would be left far behind in research and further away from any end in sight to the pandemic, she said.

    LincolnHealth’s HICS team has been meeting twice a day since the system reacted to the pandemic, said Cavanaugh. Medical staff then break into smaller groups to get things done. “We take all that information, adapt to it and disseminate it and respond to it.”

    Cavanaugh said the best case scenario for Lincoln County is that everyone has overprepared, but all precautions have been to avoid moving too slowly or reacting too late.

    “… We've collaborated across MaineHealth as a system, with Midcoast, Pen Bay, Waldo. We've collaborated with EMS in the region. We've been in contact with all the players within the county to streamline and coordinate things and keep everybody safe … I have to say we've got a really incredible crew in the background … trying our best to be prepared and trying to think through every scenario. It’s tedious sometimes, but the level of detail is kind of mind-boggling …We've really just been trying to prepare for every potential as best as we can.

    “It seems like everyone's hanging in there and doing the right thing. This too shall pass at some point, but in the meantime I would just let people know that it's most important that we continue to do what we're doing in the meantime so we can get through this as relatively unscathed as possible. Hopefully this won't hit us as hard as elsewhere. I think that would be a blessing.”