April 1, 2020 COVID Update

In the two weeks since we shared our first update on the impact of COVID-19 on Maine and LifeFlight, all of our worlds have turned upside down. The COVID-19 virus has gained a foothold in Maine.

We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy, and that you have found ways to maintain some social connection amid the physical separation.

Like our EMS and hospital partners, LifeFlight crews are caring for patients with this new disease. It is a huge challenge.

At LifeFlight, in addition to the critically ill and injured patients we care for every day, we are also transporting 3 patients in severe respiratory failure each day. We are seeing patients of every age. This is not a disease unique to our elderly, although they have increased risk. We expect this number may double weekly based on experience we are tracking across the world .

As with the entire healthcare system we are very concerned about the availability of personal protective equipment to keep our staff healthy and safe so they will be there when you need them. The increased costs to us are substantial and as a charity this is a significant new expense.  If you can help – and we understand not everyone may be in a position to do so – we would be grateful for gifts to help offset this surging and unanticipated expense. Gifts can be made online here . We are planning for the current emergency state to last well into the early summer under best circumstance.

Many in the medical community under appreciated the risk of this novel virus. While many people who contract the virus do reasonably well, 1 in every 5 will become seriously ill . Testing is still struggling and while we are making progress it is essential to remember each updated report on new positive cases and hospitalizations from the Maine CDC is only looking at star light–an infection from days or weeks ago. We now know the virus in China was spreading unrecognized from patient 0 in the middle of November with the first cluster of cases only appearing at the end of December. 

This is undoubtedly the same in the US with the virus spreading unrecognized for some period of time before exploding. We know the number of positive tests only represents the tip of the iceberg and many patients getting negative tests are still at risk for the virus. Consequently, reported cases are events that occurred up to two weeks ago and hospitalizations potentially up to three weeks. The incubation period is recognized as 2-11 days with five days as the median with 8-14 days from illness to severe illness.

The stay at home, shelter in place order issued by Governor Mills is incredibly important. It is the only strategy we can collectively employ to protect ourselves, our families, and the capacity of our EMS and hospital system and keep it from being overwhelmed like the current situation in New York City.

With maximal collective effort we will have very difficult months ahead. But if we do not practice maximal collective effort to flatten the curve we will experience catastrophe. 

In our first update we noted that we are all in this together and we are sharing on our social media pages how you can help, the first and most important being to stay at home unless on an essential task to protect yourself and loved ones. Physical distance not social distance is still the key.

Good sources of information:
Our World in DataJohns H opkins ModelingMaine CDCSTAT NewsEuropean Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Thank you to our EMS and hospital partners, friends and communities all across Maine.
Wishing you all safety and good health,
On behalf of the LifeFlight team, Thomas Judge, ParamedicExecutive DirectorNorm Dinerman, MD, FACEPMedical Director