COVID-19 is far from done with Palm Beach County, but emergency room physician Dr. Bill Benda is less stressed than he was early on in the pandemic.
Doctors knew very little about the novel coronavirus or how to treat it in March. But the county’s stay-at-home lockdown slowed the contagion, buying them time to learn.
When the county eased restrictions and cases spiked this summer, Benda, who lives in the County Pocket near Briny Breezes, knew much more about how to manage the disease.
“When this first hit, we had no idea how dangerous this was and how contagious this was,” he said. “Now … we are much more experienced with how it works, so it is not nearly as stressful as it was in the early days.
“When something is unknown, it is scary. Now we don’t have that overarching fear we had initially.”
As the number of infected people mounts, Benda, 66, said doctors and hospitals are better able to cope.
Hospitals now have special units for COVID-19 patients, which take pressure off ICUs. Several treatment options are available for the seriously ill. Doctors better understand when a patient must be hospitalized or can be sent home to recover.
The FAU associate professor estimates he works three to four 10-hour hospital shifts a week, supervising two residents and one four-year medical student per shift. He spends additional time on teaching and administrative responsibilities at FAU. He and the residents see about 30 patients each shift, of which about 20% have or are suspected to have COVID-19. Two of his residents fell ill, one gravely so.
The lack of adequate testing remains “a huge issue” that hinders patient care. “That is why we are in the mess we are today that almost no other country is in,” he said.
Benda’s advice: Follow epidemiologists’ instructions to avoid crowds, wear masks and practice social distancing. “Not following what they say is insane and it will lead to more disaster.”
— Mary Hladky