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Doctor in eye of COVID-19 storm says virus, treatments evolving

BOSTON — With the COVID-19 pandemic possibly nearing its peak in Massachusetts, 5 Investigates checked in again with a doctor who works square in the eye of the coronavirus hurricane.

“I was in the trauma room seeing the sickest of the sick patients.”


That’s Dr. Jon Santiago on Twitter after his latest shift in the emergency room at Boston Medical Center.

Dr. Jon Santiago

Since 5 Investigates first spoke with Santiago last week there has been a new trend: Patients coming back to the hospital who are already known to be COVID-19 positive. “Their status is deteriorating significantly and they’re coming back to the emergency department, requiring interventions and admission and many times a ventilator,” Santiago said. He said this shows just how tenacious the novel coronavirus can be. 5 investigates reviewed data from five of Boston's major hospitals, including Boston Medical Center. Approximately 800 patients with COVID-19 were admitted in the last eight days. That amounted to an increase of more than 40%. More than one third of those patients are in intensive care. “As the science is evolving, our understanding of the virus is evolving as well,” Santiago said. One way it’s evolving is the way patients are being treated. “If we can stave off ventilation or a ventilator, we do our best to do that.” He said. Instead of rushing to put patients on ventilators, which can severely complicate patient recoveries, doctors are trying other methods. “Putting them on their belly to increase their ability to oxygenate, we're doing that in the emergency department now, which is something that you would only see in the ICU,” Santiago said. He said medical personnel are also having end of life discussions earlier with virus patients who have not been able to have loved ones by their side since they were admitted to the hospital. “That's been one of the most difficult parts about this,” Santiago said. “Patients depend on their family so much and so often. And the fact that they can't be there in person with them, soothing them and talking to them and touching them. It's difficult.” 5 Investigates will continue to speak with Dr. Santiago about his experiences on the front lines.



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