Looking Beyond Tomorrow for Health Care and Society

Jul 15, 2020, 11:00 AM

Just 6 months ago, the novel coronavirus now known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and COVID-19, the severe disease it causes, were unheard of.

Today, this highly contagious and dangerous virus and the widespread virulent disease it causes have resulted in major disruptions of business, education, and transportation, and have permeated and interrupted virtually every aspect of daily life. Millions of people have been affected by COVID-19, hundreds of thousands have experienced critical illness, and tens of thousands have died. Physicians, other health care professionals, and health care systems around the world have been challenged like never before in recent history.

Since one of the first publications in JAMA, titled “Coronavirus Infections—More Than Just the Common Cold,” by Fauci and colleagues on January 23, 2020, it was clear that the scope and ultimate effects of this outbreak were unclear and would evolve rapidly. However, at some point the acute phase of the pandemic will end, and it will be necessary to understand what the future may look like in health care and in society. Various forecasts have suggested possible timelines for when peaks in disease activity, intensity, and severity of COVID-19 may begin to gradually subside. There are major concerns and uncertainty not only regarding when a return to some semblance of “normal” activities might occur, but also regarding what that “new normal” will be like, in terms of the implications related to the lingering risk of ongoing COVID-19 disease. These implications may be profound and most likely will have important consequences for daily life and for the health care system. At least in the short term, as severe disease and the current pandemic begin to subside, some of the significant and fundamental changes that have occurred in health care and in society will remain in place, and many of these may become permanent.

It is impossible to know exactly what the future pattern of COVID-19 disease activity might be, because it seems that the only predictable aspect of this pandemic is that it has been unpredictable. It is clear that the US and countries around the world must be better prepared for what may emerge in the coming months than they were for the initial pandemic, and they may need to implement bold and creative responses. Accordingly, in a series of upcoming Viewpoints, JAMA will attempt to look beyond tomorrow—to the postacute phase—to describe and understand various issues in health care that may need to be considered and addressed. Among these may be clinical issues, such as development of effective therapies and a safe vaccine; public health issues, such as continued surveillance, risk mitigation, and containment; infectious disease–specific issues, such as appropriate therapeutic interventions, serologic testing, and prevention of transmission; financial issues and personnel to mount an effective response to COVID-19 resurgence or perhaps another severe disease outbreak.

While acknowledging that there will be uncertainty in addressing the topics in the “COVID-19: Beyond Tomorrow” series, the insights from these Viewpoints should serve to help inform physicians, other health care professionals, administrators, and policy makers about what the future may hold with COVID-19 for health care and society. Perhaps these Viewpoints could also serve to provide suggestions to galvanize efforts about what will need to be done beyond tomorrow.

A Guest Editorial

Read Other Articles In Editorial
EDITORIAL: On URR reconciliation!
Jan 12, 2021, 12:31 PM

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador once said that  faith does not mean shying away or hiding from the challenges of the world, but rather it means being responsive, compassionate and understanding in the front-line challenges of human life.

Boosting Gambia-China relations!
Aug 12, 2021, 12:37 PM

The Gambia and China have been close allies in a variety of fields since the resumption of diplomatic ties in 2016. In making the South-South cooperation a reality, the two countries have committed to move these mutually excellent bilateral relations to another height.

Africa to suffer severe impacts of environmental risks!
Jan 20, 2021, 12:16 PM

Climate change could lead to drying trends in Africa with the Sahel region encroaching further south and triggering the migration of animals and plants, experts say.

Let’s motivate our security forces!
Feb 23, 2021, 11:32 AM

Promoting security sector reform (SSR) in countries emerging from conflicts or where gross human rights violations have occurred is a move in the direction. In fact, it is a critical mission embraced by many international bodies amid rights violation.