Continuing COVID-19 Partnership Between CDC and IDSA

The federal agency and infectious disease organization have teamed up to offer a wealth of resources for health care professionals on the frontlines of treating the virus.

A collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) to support health care providers treating COVID-19 will continue, the agencies announced, buoyed by a cooperative agreement of $3.66 million given to IDSA by the CDC. Launched in May 2020, the CDC and IDSA COVID-19 initiative enables frontline clinicians to have all their questions answered so they can give the best possible care to their patients.

The linchpins of the collaboration are the CDC and IDSA COVID-19 On Call program and the CDC and IDSA COVID-19 Real Time Learning Network (RTLN). As there has been a dramatic increase in calls to the CDC since the start of the pandemic, with clinicians seeking answers to sometimes detailed, complex questions, IDSA and the CDC realized a team approach was needed.

With On Call, CDC staffers can refer questions to IDSA-affiliated volunteer physicians, who then contact callers with the information they need. “Seventy-six members of IDSA have been volunteering their time to take these calls 12 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Daniel McQuillen, MD, FIDSA, IDSA’s president told Contagion. ”Over the past nearly 15 months, the volunteers have responded to more than 340 calls.”

In addition to speaking directly with infectious disease physicians to have their questions addressed, healthcare providers are able to take advantage of the RTLN. This online resource offers the latest information regarding COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and prevention strategies. In addition to IDSA and the CDC, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Society of Critical Care Medicine, and various other medical societies contribute data and information to the network.

Another valuable CDC and IDSA offering is a bimonthly teleconference. Initially, small events drawing 20 or so physicians looking for CDC guidance, the teleconferences grew larger over time, prompting IDSA to sign on to help. “[W]e now regularly host up to 1000 or more clinicians for our Saturday COVID-19 calls,” McQuillen said. “The IDSA staff spends a good deal of time discussing call topics with CDC every week, and a great deal of preparation goes into every call.” The medical societies that are part of the RTLN also have speakers at the teleconferences, and the questions and answers raised during these sessions help inform the content on the RTLN web site.

Additional initiatives, some ongoing and some new, are possible thanks to the recent grant. They include the Emerging Infections Network (EIN), a provider-based web application monitoring new infections and diseases, and the Leadership in Epidemiology, Antimicrobial Stewardship, and Public Health (LEAP) Fellowship, which nurtures leaders in the infectious disease disease realm who use their knowledge to improve public health. “In addition, a new program will be created in 2022 that allows ID physicians to apply for a combined ID fellowship and CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Fellowship,” McQuillen said. “Lastly, IDSA also added two new agreements focused on antimicrobial resistance, including improving antibiotic prescribing practices.”

A statement issued by IDSA noted the critical importance of the CDC and IDSA COVID-19 partnership given the robustness of the delta variant and the fact that many hospitals are being strained to maximum capacity caring for unvaccinated patients.