Many healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic lack the needed patient-protective equipment, putting them at the highest risk of contracting the disease, Holly Kramer, MD, President of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), said in a March 26 address to attendees of the organization’s first live-virtual Spring Clinical Meetings.

“At no other time in the past century have we ever had more risk to the healthcare workers,” Dr Kramer said.

Dr Kramer predicted that over the next several weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases likely will continue to increase before reaching a plateau. “Even if we strongly enforce social distancing, we quarantine those infected, and we quarantine those who are exposed, it’s going to take a long time to get past this epidemic.”

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Thousands of people have been hospitalized, and, “as of this morning, over a thousand people in the US have died of COVID-19.”

She pointed out that patients with kidney disease are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. “Now the most basic activities that our patients do, like going to the grocery store, visiting with family and friends, and going to a dialysis unit is really, really scary.”

Dr Kramer also spoke about how the pandemic has impacted NKF’s mission to increase awareness and prevention of kidney disease.

“In July of 2019, the Advancing American Kidney Health Initiative presidential order was signed, and with one stroke of a pen, our highest priorities were actually made into public policy and national directives,” Dr Kramer said. “And 2020 was going to be our year, the year that we increase awareness of kidney disease. The year that we put kidney disease in the minds of many more Americans, and we put kidney disease in the minds of providers in order to prevent kidney disease, detect it earlier, and prevent end-stage renal disease.”

NKF had “incredible traction” because of the presidential order, but “our traction has been interrupted by a global pandemic that has hit our society with such force never seen in our history.”

NKF originally was to have convened its Spring Clinical Meetings in New Orleans, but decided to switch to a live-virtual format because of the pandemic.