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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Hospitals are asking retired doctors and nurses to come back and help with operations as they prepare for a rush of severe coronavirus cases.

The bottom line: Retired clinicians likely won't be placed in intensive care units or coronavirus testing stations, because older adults are at higher risk of falling ill and dying from the virus. But they could help stabilize hospitals that will need as many hands on deck as possible over the coming months.

Where it stands: The Association of American Medical Colleges floated this idea last week with hospitals and federal agencies.

  • "The question is: How can we bring people up to speed and bring them in?" said Janis Orlowski, a physician and executive at the AAMC. "They will ... [likely] backfill in areas where it's not direct patient care."

What they're saying: Some retired clinicians are willing to take on other necessary care, while residents and other doctors funnel into coronavirus cases.

  • Mary Kiehl, a physician who retired last September from Washington University in St. Louis, recently messaged her department chair asking if they needed any extra help. She heard back within minutes.
  • "I was shocked at how fast the response was," she said.
  • Kiehl is finishing a self-quarantine after returning from a trip in Patagonia, but she plans to help her hospital with occupational health and supervising residents by the end of this month.

By the numbers: 41% of doctors are 55 or older, according to American Medical Association data provided to Axios, and 38% of nurses are 55 or older.

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Health

Food banks feel the strain without holiday volunteers

People wait in line at Food Bank Community Kitchen on Nov. 25 in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Food Bank For New York City

America's food banks are sounding the alarm during this unprecedented holiday season.

The big picture: Soup kitchens and charities, usually brimming with holiday volunteers, are getting far less help.

9 hours ago - Health

AstraZeneca CEO: "We need to do an additional study" on COVID vaccine

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Thursday the company is likely to start a new global trial to measure how effective its coronavirus vaccine is, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Following Phase 3 trials, Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.