David Lat. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

 

David Lat remains in critical condition, on a ventilator and sedated inside a Manhattan hospital, as doctors and his family wait to see over the next several days if the “very experimental” drug therapy he has been given to help him fight the coronavirus will work, said his husband on Monday afternoon.

“We won’t know for a few more days, whether he’s going to get better—whether this stuff [the drug therapy] is working or not,” said his husband of four and a half years, Zachary Baron Shemtob, in a phone interview.

“We’re hanging in there,” he said. “We’re just waiting and hoping.”

The initial sedation Lat was given early on Saturday, as he was put on a potentially life-saving ventilator because his oxygen levels had dropped, did not keep Lat from waking up on Saturday, “immediately opening his eyes, demanding a pen and paper and starting to write down questions, to get to the bottom of everything,” Shemtob said Monday.

“It was just David being David. It wasn’t that he was agitated, but, you know, he was curious and inquisitive,” Shemtob said. “He just wanted to be his inquisitive journalist self. It was shortly after being put on the ventilator.”

Lat, the founder of the legal blog Above the Law and now a widely recognized legal recruiter who still writes columns for Above the Law, has been hospitalized at NYU Langone Hospital since March 16 due to a COVID-19 infection. For more than a week before being admitted to the hospital, Lat, 44, had experienced intermittent fevers, joint aches, chills, fatigue and coughing. Labored breathing set in by March 15, forcing him to go to his nearest emergency room to seek a coronavirus test.

Shemtob said he was told about his husband waking up Saturday, despite being under sedation, by an attending nurse at the hospital. The nursing staff then asked Lat to go back and get more rest, Shemtob explained. Shortly after that, medical staff gave him more sedation, and Lat has been mostly sedated since then.

“You want to let the ventilator do its work,” Shemtob said, basing his knowledge on what doctors and nursing staff have told him.

“They want to use the ventilator for everything, sort of,” continued Shemtob, who is a former clerk for U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Judge Robert Sack and a former associate at Cooley.

Lat went from receiving oxygen and being in stable condition last week at NYU Langone, as he posted Twitter threads about his coronavirus battle that he titled “Above the Hospital Bed,” to being put on a ventilator and placed in an intensive care unit late Friday night or early Saturday.

In an interview March 18, Lat said that he’s generally been a very healthy person. He’s run two New York City marathons and until recently did intense interval training each week and walked about 25 miles a week, as well. He did note, though, that he has exercise-induced asthma.

According to Shemtob, the doctors at NYU Langone on Saturday or late Friday prescribed Lat a Z-Pak (azithromycin) and the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. They also are treating him with an IL 6-inhibitor to fight the inflammation of Lat’s lungs.

The drug therapy of the Z-Pak and hydroxychloroquine is experimental, Shemtob said, and is based on a small, recent study from France that indicates it may help people fight off the novel coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine is a derivative of chloroquine, which was discovered in 1934 and later used on malaria patients.

Shemtob said on Monday that “if they [doctors] had a nonexperimental regime, this is what one would want, but the problem is given how new and novel this virus is, we are just wanting them [the doctors] to do, to do what they think makes the most sense medically.”

President Donald Trump has touted using hydroxychloroquine as a possible way to fight the coronavirus, and has said that he has “a feeling” it may become a major breakthrough in fighting the virus. But experts have cautioned that the French study was too small to know about the true safety and efficacy of using the drug therapy.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that a study of the drug will start in the state Tuesday.

Shemtob, 36, speaking from a cellphone and sounding weary but hopeful, said that he and the Lat family want to help in the larger fight against the coronavirus pandemic. He added that “at this time, we don’t have another way of helping other than bringing awareness” of how seriously every person should take the virus.

He expressed frustration with reports of spring breakers in Florida and others not heeding officials’ widespread calls, or orders, for social distancing.

“If it’s not scary enough to want to take care of themselves,” he said of spring breakers on beaches, “then they should think about the possibility of transmitting it to other people.”

“The fact that they can’t even take those things into account is pretty scary and depressing,” he added.

“People are going to be people,” he said, “but they really should think about the long-term consequences over what they see as their short-term enjoyment.”

Shemtob also has contracted the cornoavirus, presumably from contact with Lat, he has said. But other than experiencing some regular flu-like symptoms, he has been OK, he said. Shemtob and Lat, residents of Manhattan, have a 2-year-old son.

One of the toughest parts of Lat’s illness, Shemtob has said, is that he and Lat’s other family are not allowed to visit Lat at the hospital because of the very contagious virus.

On Monday, Shemtob said that “the one silver lining in all of this is that it’s been wonderful to hear from friends, acquaintances, people we don’t even know who have been touched in some way by this.”

“We appreciate everyone’s love and thoughts and prayers,” he said.

“I just want to stress again, for folks to stay safe,” he said, “and to stop congregating together, to please take this stuff seriously.”