A duel of opinions: reflections on the new normality after the pandemic

Do you believe we are in the phase of the COVID-19 pandemic where the industry can finally start thinking about a new normal?

Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips: Let me put it this way. We had, I don’t want to call them waves; we had several tsunamis, especially last winter and this winter. In the future, they will be larger than a wave, and then, over time, they will become the size of ripples. I really think that we are approaching the endemic stage. There will still be waves, but not a tsunami.

Dr. Alexander Garza: I will warn against everything: “Hey, we have seen cases during the pandemic when it challenged us.” But I think we are in a better position than we have ever been. After the omicron wave in the community, whether we are in Missouri or across the country, there are very few people left who have not developed some sort of immunity to the coronavirus through vaccination or infection.

Over the past couple of years, many routine examinations, preventive treatments and elective procedures have been postponed. How concerned are you about the long-term consequences of this?

Compton Phillips: If you want to know what keeps me awake at night, this is very important. Our workforce has been decimated and we have patients who have not been treated. We now have strong evidence that COVID has some impact on heart disease risk. This is a delayed relief for people with heart disease, but we only see it in patients with cardiovascular problems.

Garza: We will need to at least trace some of the results in the coming years to see what impact the untimely aid has had. Whether it’s things like colonoscopies and other preventive measures, and whether it affects cancer rates, deaths, and the like in the future. … It will definitely be greater than zero.

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Looking back at the past two years of the pandemic, can you see any positives given what the country and the industry have been through?

Compton Phillips: In every industry except healthcare, the addition of technology has made things easier for consumers and lowered costs. We’ve added technology to healthcare, and it’s complicated and costly. But during COVID, we have finally been able to take advantage of things like telemedicine and home hospital, and have started to use a lot of digital tools to make life easier for our patients and caregivers.

Garza: Early in the pandemic, we helped form the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force. It really was an amalgamation of all health care systems here in St. Louis, along with public health and the business community. I think one of the benefits has been this collaboration between metropolitan areas in many different sectors to solve a common problem.

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