When a novel coronavirus emerged in late 2019, everyone risked infection, but kidney patients found themselves especially vulnerable. People with kidney disease have compromised immune systems and the vast majority of these individuals—roughly half a million people—must visit dialysis centers several times a week, exposing themselves to contact with staff and other patients when they should ideally be isolated at home.
Although widely thought of as a respiratory ailment, COVID-19 has demonstrated its ability to impact multiple organs. For those with existing kidney disease, the dangers of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus are especially stark. Researchers at New York City’s Montefiore Medical Center reported that recipients of kidney transplants who contract COVID-19 appear to be at exceptionally high risk of severe illness. Additionally, a study of electronic health record data by CarePort Health found that people with chronic kidney disease were 2.5 times more likely to die than other hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Even patients without prior kidney disease are proving susceptible to acute kidney injury (AKI) associated with the virus.
The statistics are startling. As of April 20, African Americans were far more likely than whites to become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and die from COVID-19. More recent data paint a similarly bleak picture of COVID-19’s impact in Hispanic and Native-American communities.
Every physician is critical in the battle against COVID-19, but some may soon find themselves sidelined—not by the illness but by the complexities of a U.S. visa process, which can leave applicants in limbo as they transition from one legal status to another.
In a March 2020 letter, ASN asked congressional leaders to encourage the administration to enact policies to make sure no law-abiding physician or medical resident who wants to come to or remain in the United States is prevented from doing so. The letter called for: