Returning to work after COVID-19 infection
Regarding the thorny question of when health care workers should be permitted to return to work after coronavirus infection, “it’s an evolving story,” said Dr. Fauci. Currentadvises that health care providers stay away from work until two negative tests after resolution of fever and improvement of respiratory symptoms, or 3 fever-free days.
“We are approaching a point where you’re going to get enough people who are getting infected that we aren’t going to be able to do that,” he said. Depending on the stress to the health care system in a given locality, he said that facilities are going to have to “decide with good judgment” when health care workers go back on the job after coronavirus infection.
Asked how soon an individual would reliably test positive for COVID-19 after exposure, Dr. Fauci said, “We don’t know the answer to that. ... We can surmise it ...” He noted that it’s a median of about 5 days with a range of 2 to 14 days, before an infected individual becomes symptomatic. “I can say it’s not going to happen immediately,” he added, noting that he wouldn’t expect to see a positive test until about 2 days after exposure at the earliest. “When you get to the point where you are symptomatic, you’re almost certainly going to be positive then. ... This is just an extrapolation,” rather than conclusions drawn from solid data, he emphasized.
Higher risk reported in cardiac patients
Dr. Bauchner, who was relaying questions sent in from physicians during the live-streamed interview, asked about a newly issued joint statement from the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and the Heart Failure Society of America, which on March 17 affirmed that individuals on ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) continue that therapy if they should become ill with COVID-19. The European Society of Cardiology issued a similar recommendation a few days prior.
Despite these societies’ statements, Dr. Fauci pointed to population-level data in Italy as suggesting that the case isn’t yet closed. “We really need to get data, and we need to get data fast. There’s a mechanistic rationale for the concern. It’s there, and it’s firm,” he said. The theoretical concern is that ACE inhibitors can upregulate expression of the ACE-2 protein on cell membranes, which is the entry point for SARS-Cov-2 to enter cells.
He added that he remains concerned about the number of coronavirus fatalities of patients in Italy who had hypertension as their only, or primary, underlying health problem.“That to me was a bit of a red flag,” he said. “Patients with hypertension almost certainly had a physician, and the physician almost certainly treated that person with medication. Why should someone who has hypertension that was well controlled have a much greater chance of dying?” he asked, noting that “I look at a person with well-controlled hypertension as a relatively healthy person. I don’t know what the answer is, but somebody has to look very carefully,” ideally by means of a natural history study that identifies medications used by those who died from coronavirus.