Alexander Gamus PhD and Gabriel Chodick PhD
Yuval Levy MD MHA, Yael Frenkel Nir MD, Avinoah Ironi MD, Hindy Englard RN MSc, Gili Regev-Yochay MD, Galia Rahav MD, Arnon Afek MD and Ehud Grossman MD
Background: Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, is a tertiary hospital located in the center of Israel. It is the largest hospital in Israel and was the first to face coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) patients in the country at the beginning of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic.
Objectives: To describe our experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on our triage method in the emergency department (ED). Our goal was to keep the main hospitalization buildings clean of infection by separating COVID-19 positive patients from COVID-19 negative patients.
Methods: We divided our ED into two separate sections: a regular non-COVID-19 ED and an advanced biological ED. We created clear protocols of triage for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients. We reviewed the data of patients admitted to our ED during the month of March and analyzed the results of our triage method in separating COVID-19 positive from negative patients.
Results: During the month of March 2020, 7957 patients were referred to our ED. Among them 2004 were referred to the biological ED and 5953 were referred to the regular ED. Of the 2004 patients referred to the biological ED, 1641 (81.8%) were sampled for SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction of whom 143 (8.7%) were positive. Only two COVID-19 positive patients unintentionally entered the main clean hospital, making our triage almost full proof.
Conclusions: Our triage method was successful in separating COVID-19 positive from negative patients and maintained the regular hospital clean of COVID-19 allowing treatment continuation of regular non-COVID-19 patients.
Eli Jaffe PhD, Roman Sonkin B.EMS, Evan Avraham Alpert MD, Avi Magid PhD and Haim Y. Knobler MD
Background: The potential excess flow of patients into emergency departments and community clinics for testing and examination during a pandemic poses a major issue. These additional patients may lead to the risk of viral transmission to other patients and medical teams. To contain the spread of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), the Israeli Ministry of Health initiated a plan spearheaded by Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical services (EMS) organization.
Objectives: To describe outbreak containment actions initiated by MDA, including a COVID-19 tele-triage center and home testing by paramedics.
Methods: Retrospective analysis was conducted of de-identified data from the call management and command and control systems during the first period of the COVID-19 outbreak in Israel (23 February 2020–15 March 2020).
Results: During the study period, the total number of calls to the dispatch centers was 477,321 with a daily average of 21,696, compared to 6000–6500 during routine times. The total number of COVID-19 related calls was 334,230 (daily average 15,194). There were 28,454 calls (8.51% of all COVID-19 related calls, average 1293/day) transferred to the COVID-19 call center. Of the COVID-19 call center inquiries, 8390 resulted in the dispatch of a dedicated vehicle, including a paramedic wearing personal protective equipment, to collect samples for testing (daily average 381).
Conclusions: Maximizing EMS during a pandemic using phone triage, in addition to dispatching paramedics to perform home testing, may significantly distance infected patients from the public and health care system. These steps can further minimize the spread of disease.
Raanan Meyer MD, Gabriel Levin MD, Natav Hendin BSc and Eldad Katorza MD
Background: Channeling medical resources for coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) management can potentially endanger routine healthcare practices. As a preventive measure, a department of obstetrics and gynecology in Israel constructed a separate, designated complex for its COVID-19-exposed patients.
Objectives: To evaluate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic infection control measures on obstetric care in the obstetrical emergency department and delivery unit.
Methods: The authors collected data retrospectively from February 2020 to March 2020 and compared it to data of a parallel period in 2019.
Results: From 1 February 2020 to 28 March 2020, 3897 women were referred to the emergency department (ED), compared to 4067 the previous year. Mean duration of treatment until decision and referral indications did not differ between 2020 and 2019 (207 vs. 220 minutes, P = 0.26; urgent referrals 58.8% vs. 59.2%, P = 0.83). A per-week comparison showed a significant reduction in ED referrals only in the last week of the period (337  vs. 515 , P < 0.001). The proportion of women admitted to the delivery unit in active labor was significantly higher in the last three weeks (39.1% vs. 28.2%, P = 0.005). During February and March 2020, 1666 women delivered, compared to 1654 during February and March 2019. The proportion of types and modes of delivery did not differ. In a per-week comparison, the number of deliveries did not differ (mean 208 vs. 206, P = 0.88).
Conclusions: With timely preparation and proper management, negative impact of COVID-19 can be reduced in obstetrical emergency departments.
Yoram Sandhaus MD, Talma Kushnir PhD and Shai Ashkenazi MD
Background: Social distancing, implemented to decrease the spread of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), forced major changes in medical practices, including an abrupt transition from face-to-face to remote patient care. Pre-clinical medical studies were concomitantly switched to electronic distance learning.
Objectives: To explore potential implications of COVID-19 on future pre-clinical medical studies.
Methods: We examined responses of pre-clinical medical students to the remote electronic learning in terms of quality of and satisfaction with teaching and technical support, attendance to classes, and the desire to continue electronic learning in the post-epidemic era. A survey of responses from first-year students at the Adelson School of Medicine was conducted. To optimize the reliability of the survey, a single research assistant conducted telephone interviews with each student, using a structured questionnaire concerning aspects of participation and satisfaction with teaching and with technical components of the remote electronic learning.
Results: With 100% response rate, the students reported high satisfaction with the electronic learning regarding its quality, online interactions, instructions given, technical assistance, and availability of recording for future studies. Most of the students (68.6%) noted a preference to continue < 90% of the learning online in the post-outbreak era. A high level of overall satisfaction and a low rate of technical problems during electronic learning were significantly correlated with the desire to continue online learning (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: The high satisfaction and the positive experience with the electronic distance learning imposed by the COVID-19 epidemic implied a successful transition and might induce future changes in pre-clinical medical studies.
Shani Dahan MD, Gad Segal MD, Itai Katz MD, Tamer Hellou MD, Michal Tietel MD, Gabriel Bryk MD, Howard Amital MD, Yehuda Shoenfeld MD FRCP MaACR and Amir Dagan MD
Background: Ferritin, the cellular protein storage for iron, has emerged as a key molecule in the immune system, orchestrating the cellular defense against inflammation. At the end of 2019, the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) rapidly spread throughout China and other countries around the world, resulting in a viral pandemic.
Objectives: To evaluate the correlation between ferritin and disease severity in coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).
Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we obtained clinical and laboratory data regarding 39 hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 from two hospitals in Israel.
Results: A significant increase in ferritin levels was demonstrated in patients with moderate and severe disease, compared to patients with mild disease (P = 0.006 and 0.005, respectively). Severe patients had significantly higher levels of ferritin (2817.6 ng/ml) than non-severe patients (708.6 ng/ml) P = 0.02.
Conclusions: In this preliminary cross-sectional study, elevated ferritin levels were shown to correlate with disease severity in 39 patients from Israel with confirmed COVID-19 infection. Our results further strengthen the hypothesis that severe COVID-19 disease might be due to an underlying dysregulated hyperimmune response. In order to identify these patients early and prioritized resources, we believe that all patients with COVID-19 should be screened for hyperferritinemia.
Máté Hidvégi PhD and Michele Nichelatti PhD
Background: The 2019 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic continued into 2020, and the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) associated death toll increased.
Objectives: To analyze COVID-19 death rates in European countries or regions to determine whether there was a significant association between bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination policy and lower rates of COVID-19 related deaths.
Methods: Certain Northern European countries or regions had low death rates regardless of BCG policy. The authors assumed the consumption of foods containing salmiak (NH4Cl) was a common and peculiar cause of the reduced COVID-19 related death rates in these countries, because NH4Cl is a known lysosomotropic agent, which has been indicated to inhibit or prevent SARS-CoV infection. To check the possible effectiveness of salmiak consumption against COVID-19 related death, the authors used a linear regression model with the death rate as the dependent variable and BCG-policy and salmiak consumption score as independent variables.
Results: Using least squares regression and a robust standard error algorithm, the authors found a significant effect exerted by the independent variables (P < 0.0005 for BCG and P = 0.001 for salmiak). Salmiak score alone was significant (P = 0.016) when using least squares regression with robust error algorithm.
Conclusions: The results seem to confirm an association between BCG-positive vaccination policy and salmiak consumption, and lower death rates from COVID-19. Implementing BCG vaccination policy and fortification of foods with salmiak (NH4Cl) may have a significant impact on the control of SARS-CoV epidemic.
Shay Brikman MD, Amir Bieber MD and Guy Dori MD PhD
In this review we described the values of commonly available HScore laboratory markers in patients with coronavirus-19 (COVID-19)-pneumonia associated cytokine storm syndrome (CPN-CSS) and compared results with those of other forms cytokine storm syndrome (O-CSS) to determine a pattern for CPN-CSS. Twelve CPN-CSS studies and six O-CSS studies were included. CPN-CSS typically obtained a single HScore value (e.g., aspartate transaminase > 30 U/L) while failing all other HScore criteria. A typical pattern for CPN-CSS was revealed when compared to O-CSS: lymphopenia vs. pancytopenia and increased vs. decreased fibrinogen. Findings, other than HScore commonly found in CPN-CSS studies, showed elevated lactate dehydrogenase, D-dimer, and C-reactive protein. Although CPN-CSS studies describe severely ill patients, the HScore markers are typically less toxic that O-CSS
Paula David MD and Yehuda Shoenfeld MD FRCP MACR
Yolanda Braun-Moscovici MD, Devy Zisman MD and Alexandra Balbir-Gurman MD
Ramzi Kurd MD, Michael Zuckerman MD and Eli Ben-Chetrit MD