Doctors have learned a lot about COVID-19, but there’s still plenty they don’t know

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DENVER (KDVR) – In the last year, doctors and scientists in Colorado and around the world have learned a lot about COVID-19, yet there’s still so much they don’t know.

The first coronavirus cases were confirmed in the state on March 5, 2020, and within weeks hospitals were inundated with patients.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, there was so much anxiety over what we didn’t know and the uncertainty when the first test came back positive,” said Denver Health infectious disease and public health expert Dr. Sarah Rowan.

She, along with pulmonologist Dr. Anuj Mehta, treated many of Denver Health’s nearly 2,000 COVID-19 patients.

“We were grasping for straws early on,” Mehta said. “A lot of the things we thought might work, ended up not working. So this has been a really rapid learning curve.”

Originally, doctors and researchers thought the anti-inflammatory drug, hydroxychloroquine, could help patients. Former President Donald Trump touted it and the Food and Drug Administration granted it an emergency use authorization in March.

But three months later, the FDA withdrew the authorization.

Meanwhile, other drugs drastically helped COVID patients. This includes dexamethasone, a steroid, and remdesivir, an anti-viral. Convalescent plasma from former COVID patients proved valuable as well.

“There was so much information so fast and learning how to take care of these patients definitely added to the level of stress,” said Ryan Kelley, a respiratory therapist at Denver Health.

That stress subsided for Kelley and others in the intensive care unit when they started putting patients on their bellies to help them breathe better.

Still, doctors do not have a quick cure for COVID-19.

“We’re all waiting for the homerun therapeutic,” Mehta said. “Vaccines, in my opinion, are a homerun. But for people who already have COVID, I think we’re still waiting for the homerun therapeutic.”

Scientists are also still waiting to see how much COVID mutates and what that means for how effective the fastest vaccines ever approved will be and how long they’ll protect people.

They also don’t know if the vaccines will be a one-and-done or if people will need a booster or a seasonal shot.

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