McKinsey brothers offer insight on COVID-19 as they fight on front line

Similar patterns between 1918, 2020 pandemics
Posted at 7:15 AM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 08:15:46-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Brothers David and Joel McKinsey are doctors working the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The infectious disease physicians at Research Medical Center have written extensive academic papers on the 1918 influenza pandemic and how Kansas City responded more than a century ago.

Now, they're fighting on the front line against COVID-19, and are seeing similar patterns unfold between the two pandemics.

"There were a couple of waves of influenza, unfortunately, there was a highly politicized response in our community and the mortality of Kansas City was higher than in comparable communities," Dr. David McKinsey said.

"Kansas City did have an advantage of having seen what happened in other parts of the country being hit by the 1918 influenza pandemic earlier, particularly on the East Coast in Boston and Philadelphia. There was an earlier adoption of some social changes, but there was a lot of reluctance, particularly in Kansas City compared to other cities," his brother, Joel added.

One key takeaway from 1918: Social distancing works.

"In retrospect, many of the social distancing efforts undertaken in 1918 were highly effective. We know social distancing works and saves lives. We also learned in 1918, the consistent messaging and getting everyone on the same page with how to socially distance and how to protect ourselves is highly effective," David said.

The brothers are cautiously optimistic about the global effort to find a vaccine and are pleased by the progress made in finding treatments for the virus.

Still, they're working harder than they ever have and they said it takes a toll on them, and their colleagues.

"Some difficult situations treating these patients because sometimes when people start having symptoms and requiring oxygen and come to the hospital, they may or may not do well," Joel said. "It’s hard to say at the front end of their hospitalization whether they’re going to survive or not. It depends on their age and other medical issues. That’s a real challenge because we’re used to taking care of people with infections and helping them get through them."