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Prayers and Promises

As of today, 114 Bermudians have tested positive for COVID-19, and 56 are actively infected. Some remain at home or are isolated in government facilities; 16 are in the hospital. In the absence of definitive treatment, doctors do what they can.

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As of today, 114 Bermudians have tested positive for COVID-19, and 56 are actively infected. Some remain at home or are isolated in government facilities; 16 are in the hospital. In the absence of definitive treatment, doctors do what they can. Meanwhile, families of the affected quietly engage in an alternate intervention – one which, you might be surprised to learn, has been tested and published in major scientific journals. It’s called intercessory prayer.

Prayer helps us cope with uncertainty, and when a loved one contracts COVID-19, there’s plenty to be uncertain about. Was it transmitted to other family members? Will their condition suddenly deteriorate? Are there enough ventilators? Intercessory prayer is the act of praying on behalf of others.

Of course, for an infectious disease like COVID-19, we turn to 21st-century science for answers. And, yes, some things are certain: physical distancing limits spread. So does hand washing. Masks, too. But that’s prevention, not treatment.

What can science promise once the virus decides you’re its new home? So far, there’s no cure for COVID-19. Supportive care is the mainstay of treatment. Supportive means if your temperature rises, we lower it. If your blood pressure falls, we raise it. If oxygen drops, we dial in more and roll you on your stomach. If you’re too weak to breathe, we call for a ventilator. If bacterial pneumonia supervenes, we add antibiotics. Then we wait.
One thing we wait for is more data. Data from local observations, data from the Chinese, data from the Italians, data from any major center that has weathered, or is still weathering, the tsunami. What we really want
are large-scale studies. But those take time. Until then, the list of medical uncertainties is long:

1. Is there a role for hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin?
2. Should everyone with COVID-19 receive remdesivir, lopinavir, ritonavir, or interferon beta-1a?
3. Should anyone with COVID-19 receive ivermectin?
4. Should we give intravenous zinc to COVID-19 patients?
5. Are standard ventilator settings applicable to COVID-19 patients?

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