As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the oncology community needs to be able to swiftly adapt their approach to the treatment of patients, says Balazs Halmos, MD, director of the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program and director of the Section of Thoracic Medical Oncology for Montefiore Health Systems, and first director of Clinical Cancer Genetics and professor of clinical medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In an interview with OncLive also published in Oncology Nursing News, Halmos discusses protective measures his facility to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus and other issues related to the current crisis.

OncLive: What is known about COVID-19 thus far?

Halmos:We certainly know a lot more about COVID-19 than we expected to know; this is a coronavirus that appears to have jumped species and started an epidemic of significant proportions in China. The virus has since spread throughout the world. Currently, it’s at its height in Europe as well as here, in the United States. Especially in certain parts of the country, such as where I work in New York City, the numbers are staggering.

This pandemic rushed us to reconsider our practices, especially with regard to how to care for patients with COVID-19 who come to our hospitals in very large numbers, but also our patients with cancer who continue to need our attention and still require treatment for their disease. COVID-19 is a respiratory pathogen that seems to be incredibly contagious. As such, it provokes a very specific concern, not just with regard to overwhelming the healthcare system, but [the fear] of potential contamination of our patients who come into the clinic for care. Multiple elements make it very complicated for our patients to receive the appropriate care, but we all need to come to work and figure out ways to be able provide that care to our patients.

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Featured image: Balazs Halmos, MD. Credit Jorg Meyer.