Separating the ‘facts’ about COVID-19 from the facts

Never before in history has access to information – about almost everything – been easier and faster. That includes information about COVID-19. Yet despite that plethora of information, many of us are confused about the seriousness of the situation – and what to do.

Do lockdowns really help? Is herd immunity a legitimate path back to normalcy? Can you avoid getting sick by taking supplements like Vitamin D? When will a vaccine be developed – and will it be safe to take? The answers to these and many other questions are unclear, with even doctors sometimes confused about what to do. That vaccine question, especially, epitomizes the confusion that reigns these days: as many as half of Americans say they won’t even take a vaccine, even when it becomes widely available.The high availability of data coming from a wide variety of sources is a major factor in this confusion. How can we sort all the “facts” out and enable people to focus on the facts?

Alleviating that confusion is one reason we at Ichilov Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center are organizing the World Leading Hospitals conference, to be held online on November 18th. The conference aims to bring out facts and data, and the best way to approach and process them. One of the many challenges faced not only by lay people, but by medical professionals themselves, has been teasing out sound scientific information from the multitude of papers, pre-prints, press releases, and media reports promoting unproven therapeutics and diagnostics.

The conference will address three major topics: The current state of scientific knowledge, highlighting the milestones research has achieved, and the gaps that remain in our understanding of this disease; the changes brought in medical care by COVID-19, including the rapid changes to professionals’ approaches to care based on emerging clinical data, as well as the emerging ethical issues that are complicating decision making, along with the innovations in digital transformation that are affecting care; and how society and its attitude towards medicine will be affected by the crisis once it’s behind us – what changes we can expect in legislation, regulation, insurance, the economy, and other policy and political issues.

The list of speakers taking part in the conference features a who’s who of professionals active in care and policy-making, including Prof. Ronni Gamzu – CEO of Ichilov Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Israel’s Coronavirus Project Coordinator; Prof. David Reich – President and Chief Operating Officer of Mount Sinai Hospital; Prof. Gernot Marx – Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine and Chair, Uniklinik RWTH, Aachen, Germany; Prof. Maria Zambon – Head of Influenza and Respiratory Virology & Polio Reference Service, PHE National Infection Service, UK; Prof. Jesús Rodríguez Baño – Head of Infectious Diseases Division, Hospital Universitario Virgen Macarena, Spain; and Prof. Eli Sprecher – Deputy Director General for R&D and Innovation, Ichilov Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Israel. Appearing as a Special Guest will be Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author and Columnist for the New York Times, who will speak about what a post-Covid world will look like.

There has never been a greater need for a forum like this, where data and information that can help society and professionals develop effective responses to COVID-19 can be shared, discussed, and analyzed. It’s fitting that Ichilov Sourasky Tel Aviv Medical Center would be organizing this, as we have played a central role in the management of the COVID-19 crisis in Israel. We hope this conference will help clear the air about how to deal with one of the most serious medical emergencies modern society has ever faced – and give us all the tools to better cope with the situation. The conference is free and open to all. To register, go to this link.

About the Author
Prof. Sprecher is the Deputy Director of Research & Development and Director of the Department of Dermatology at Ichilov Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Born in Waterloo, Belgium; moved to Israel in 1981; received his MD and PhD degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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