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We are in the midst of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and, as many clinicians across the globe, we are seeing firsthand the pain and death caused by COVID-19. While there are more than 300 clinical trials currently under way for this illness, there are as yet no specific therapies broadly accepted to decrease mortality. In response to dire predictions and a lack of effective treatments, authorities across the world continue to recommend a series of aggressive mitigation strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19. While early fears of widespread death and overwhelmed hospitals have played an important role in sounding the alarm about this pandemic and motivated important social distancing measures, these fears are also causing substantial harm. In this Viewpoint, using cardiac disease as an example, we explore the hazards associated both with the pandemic and initial response. We argue that clinicians’ ability to modulate fear—a sensitive but nonspecific response to threats—will be a major determinant of the magnitude of the pandemic’s effects.
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Corresponding Author: Marvin A. Konstam, MD, Cardiovascular Center, Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, 800 Washington St, PO Box 108, Boston, MA 02111 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published Online: July 22, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2020.2890
Correction: This article was corrected on August 12, 2020, to fix an error in the text. The phrase “there are no specific therapies that are known to decrease mortality” should instead have said “there are as yet no specific therapies broadly accepted to decrease mortality.” The error has been corrected.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Wessler reported support from the National Institutes of Health (grants K23AG055667 and R03AG056447) during the conduct of the study. Dr Kent reported support from the National Institutes of Health (grant UL1TR002544) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (grant ME-1606-35555). No other disclosures were reported.
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