Confronting Crisis with Courage

Published in Hopkins Medicine - Summer 2020

As I write this, I know that all of you are incredibly busy dealing with the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19. This crisis requires enormous dedication and sacrifice from all of us, and I know that each of you is doing everything you possibly can to help.

We are immensely grateful for the courage and dedication of all of our staff members, especially those who are on the front lines: doctors, nurses, technicians, environmental services workers, cafeteria workers and so many others. Our gratitude also extends beyond Johns Hopkins, to all front-line health workers, all over the country. All are working so hard, under enormously demanding circumstances, doing everything possible to help those whom they serve.

At Johns Hopkins, our entire institution is focused on caring for patients during this health crisis and pressing forward with the research that will help us defeat this epidemic. We are treating patients with COVID-19 at all of our hospitals, and to prepare for an expected surge in cases, we have partnered with the University of Maryland Medical System to set up a field hospital in the Baltimore Convention Center. Jim Ficke, director of orthopaedic surgery at Johns Hopkins, who has considerable military field hospital experience, is the medical director.

We continue to do hundreds of COVID-19 tests a day and are continuing to ramp up. No one who meets criteria for testing is being denied. We have implemented platforms that allow quicker testing and are exploring other promising technologies that may reduce the turnaround times even further.

Our scientists are also doing all they can. As you’ll read on page 6, a group of Johns Hopkins researchers has embarked on a study to see whether blood plasma from recovered coronavirus patients can help others suffering from COVID-19. Early studies on the therapy done in China are promising; if confirmed by trials in the United States, the approach could dramatically lessen the severity of the virus for many patients.

Longer term, Johns Hopkins scientists T.-C. Wu and Chien-Fu Hung are diligently working to develop a coronavirus vaccine. They are working tirelessly, but to ensure the vaccine is safe, it may take up to 18 months to move from the lab to human trials.

And Johns Hopkins engineers are pushing to develop a 3D-printed ventilator splitter that won’t lead to cross-contamination and will allow for independent control of air flow for each patient. Sung Hoon Kang, a mechanical engineer at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, is leading a team that includes ICU intensivists and pulmonary specialists at the school of medicine.

We are also grateful for support from the community and from our fellow health care providers around the region. The Johns Hopkins Health System has entered into a partnership with other area health providers, including the University of Maryland Medical System, as well as Baltimore City and health insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. The goals are to provide area residents with helpful information on coronavirus and with phone and online help from health care professionals.

In addition, Johns Hopkins Medicine and Under Armour are working together to manufacture masks for use by the Johns Hopkins Health System. Under Armour’s high-speed fabric cutting machines are cutting nearly 100 pieces of fabric at once and are producing 300,000 masks per week, for use by a range of Baltimore area hospitals. We are also partnering with the Baltimore distillery Sagamore Spirit to manufacture disinfectant for use by the Johns Hopkins Health System. The distillery, which usually makes whiskey, is producing tens of thousands of liters of hand sanitizer, with more on the way.

As we continue to battle this pandemic, I want to thank everyone at Johns Hopkins, and at all the hospitals and clinics across the country, for your courage and dedication.