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CA coronavirus spike 'strangely reminiscent' of NY outbreak: Doctor

Dr. Chi Perlroth, Vituity Emergency Medicine Partner and Emergency Department Chair at John Muir Health, joins Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani and Akiko Fujita to break down the latest coronavirus developments, discussing the similarities and differences in dealing with the virus in New York and California.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: When the coronavirus overwhelmed New York hospitals back in March and April, our next guest volunteered to fly from California to New York City to help doctors there. Now her state is dealing with a record number of cases. Dr. Chi Perlroth is a Vituity emergency medicine partner and assistant medical director and emergency department chair at John Muir Health in Walnut Creek, California. We've also got Anjalee Khemlani joining in on the conversation.

Doctor, it's great to have you on today. I'd love to get your thoughts, first of all, about what you're seeing on the ground there and how that compares to what played out in New York during March and April.

CHI PERLROTH: So yes, thanks for having me. I actually am having a little bit of deja vu in terms of what we saw in New York. I was constantly aware that anybody who came into the hospital or even in the community, being out on the streets, that I would be exposed to COVID. There, I had seen numbers and members of COVID patients in the ED. And now, we are seeing increases in patients coming to the hospital and being admitted for severe cases. It is strangely reminiscent, unfortunately.

AKIKO FUJITA: What about your ability to respond at this point? You know, when you go back to the beginning of the pandemic, especially when things were at their peak in New York, what we kept hearing was you want to flatten the curve so you can buy enough time to have the right resources in place, because the virus isn't necessarily going away.

When you look at what's playing out in California, has that time, those months in between-- has that actually helped in the response?

CHI PERLROTH: I would absolutely say yes. I think we have a luxury that New York didn't have, to start planning both in hospital systems, regional areas as well as statewide, really coordinating efforts to be prepared for that. I think we did a really great job of sheltering in place, and every individual really did their best in trying to keep everyone healthy.

But that being said, now with our numbers increasing, I think that we absolutely had the foresight to be able to prepare. And I think that-- I want to give kudos to our hospital leadership, our medical staff, our nursing leadership, as well as our legislators to have had that foresight to do that.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Doctor, I know that one of the things we kept hearing about during the peak in New York was shortage of personal protective gear, of testing. And some of those things still seem to be around, especially on the testing front. We're seeing those significant delays in turnaround time. But I've been told that the point-of-care testing doesn't see that same delay. Is that true or not? And also, what is the situation when it comes to all of this equipment?

CHI PERLROTH: So I have to say, we're really doing a great job at my local community hospital of having PPEs and having testing available. That being said, it's so important for all of us to be really good stewards of those testing because of these delays. And that comes with having the increased testing, people wanting testing, and people going to their local sites and testing centers.

So that that's something that isn't surprising at this point. But that being said, we all have to continue to be very specific about how we use those resources. And what we're doing locally is what many other hospitals are doing, which is to coordinate with their infection control groups and leadership in their hospitals to give them direction on how to use those appropriately, given the situation that all of our individual hospitals are in. And those may be different.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: And one of the things that we saw also in New York was the overflow spaces in hospitals, and stories coming out very recently saying that none of it was utilized efficiently and effectively. Has there been any thought into what would happen if your hospital does surge and lessons that you learned from New York that could help?

CHI PERLROTH: Absolutely. I have to say again, I'm so lucky to be a part of a group that's actually-- already have plans in place and have opened up units in order to take care of those patients in the best way possible to prevent spread of disease, as well as preserve PPEs while we're doing it.

AKIKO FUJITA: Doctor, can you speak to the changes that we've seen in the profile of the patients? What we heard so often during March and April was that these were largely older patients, those who had conditions that made them more vulnerable. And yet what we're hearing not just from California but other states as well now is that they're seeing a lot of younger patients coming through the door.

CHI PERLROTH: Absolutely. And that ranges from young patients with no previous medical history, mid-aged patients who are still out working, as well as babies and newborns that we see being exposed and having symptoms, coming into the ED as well as getting admitted. And so we are seeing the full breadth of community members both old, young, sick, and otherwise healthy coming in with COVID symptoms.

AKIKO FUJITA: Dr. Chi Perlroth, great to get your insight and appreciate your service both in New York as well as California. Wishing you the best of luck on that front.

CHI PERLROTH: Thank you very much.