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COVID-19 infections spike in New York as kids head back to school

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous, Brian Sozzi, and Anjalee Khemlani discuss the latest coronavirus news with Dr. Dara Kass, Columbia University Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Now, new coronavirus cases in the US rose by more than 40,000, just as we thought we were turning the corner on this thing. Here in New York, the nation's largest public school system opened elementary schools for in-person learning, yet, rapidly rising rates threaten to shut it back down. Joining us now is Dr. Kass, Dara Kass, she is Yahoo Medical Contributor and Columbia University Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine. Always good to see you, Dr. Kass, so why do you think we're seeing more COVID-19 infections now?

DR DARA KASS: So we're seeing more infections in New York, because people are not following the public health guidelines that we know work. They're tired of this virus. We're seeing gatherings, from the Labor Day spike we were worried about and other holidays and the end of summer events. We're seeing some kids back in school and what that means for families being protected. And we're realizing that without really robust, consistent, you know, sticking to the mask wearing and the lack of large gatherings, you're going to see spikes, even in cities like New York that have been very, very good at keeping the virus at bay. New York City going from a 0.8 positive test rate to a 1.5 positive test rate in the period of a couple of days is very concerning, especially as the New York City kids are going back to school.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Dr. Kass, Anjalee here, so we know that we've seen a lot of, you know, medical professionals, doctors, we've talked about this, coming out and discussing, just like you are right now, the details about the virus and give us a better understanding. But we've also seen a new trend since the start of the pandemic, but I think really picking up pace in route to the election, of more politically active doctors, whether running for seats or just forming groups to really battle misinformation. Is this something that you see as sort of a long term trend? Because doctors typically aren't like this.

DR DARA KASS: So I think that actually what it is is doctors are meeting the moment. And right now, we see deliberate misinformation and disinformation coming from, unfortunately, federal leadership around science, and so doctors, as trusted voices and as arbiters of truth, are really called to action to say, this is true, this is not true, or this is going to be really tough, but we can do this together. Physicians and other scientists running for office is a trend I hope to continue to see. We've seen lawyers have been running for office for our entire lives, and I think that getting a better cross-section of teachers and maybe firemen and also doctors running for office and being more representative of our communities I think is a really good thing. So I'm hoping to see that continue, but what we're seeing right now is doctors being politically active is a combination of truth telling and advocacies for a center back to science.

BRIAN SOZZI: Doctor, indoor dining back in somewhat of an effect in San Francisco yesterday. 25% capacity back in effect in New York City today. Should people expect these are the types of situations that would set off spikes in infections over the next month?

DR DARA KASS: So think you're going to see that New York dining, although technically open today, will come up very, very slowly in New York City. I think there's a lot of people reacting to the increased number of cases and concerned about their own families and keeping their kids in school. And so you might see a couple of people eating at very large buildings, restaurants with large spaces, or maybe quick dining, things like a pizza place or maybe, you know, a quick Mexican or a Chinese food, but you will not see a lot of people filling restaurants and sitting for a long time.

I just don't think that's where we are as a city right now. I do think that the indoor dining will be the first to roll back if we see an increased number in cases in New York. I think gyms are also vulnerable at this point for a rollback if the cases spread. So I think that business owners need to be very careful that if they have customers in their space at this point with increased cases, they need to make sure that their customers follow the best public health guidelines.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Doctor, what's the latest on the race for a vaccine? What are you hearing amongst your colleagues?

DR DARA KASS: So a vaccine is actually really promising. We are seeing that a lot of the vaccines are inducing antibody responses and helping, you know, even new populations like the Moderna vaccine showing that, you know, elderly patients are mounting a good, solid immune response to this, and that's encouraging. We also know that both of the MRNA vaccines have to be stored at very low temperatures, so making sure that they're available to patients may be complicated.

But we lastly know that the science has to lead this process, and so we're watching the continued call to action to the leaders of these pharma companies to say please let the Phase 3 trials complete. Let's let a popular opinion come together around the safety and efficacy of these vaccines so we can collectively promote them to see a really tangible vaccine uptake when they're available, which will be early next year. I think that the idea that we're going to see anything meaningful happen before the election is really false hope and a distraction.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, I thought we'd hear more about the pandemic during last night's debate. I'm not sure if you listened. I'm sure you did. What was your big takeaway from Biden and Trump's conversation, or shouting match, might I say, surrounding the coronavirus?

DR DARA KASS: Look, I think it's really difficult to have a conversation with this president about this virus, because unfortunately, he's not really interested in the hard work or the facts, and those are both integral to a really constructive debate. I think that when you ask him about mask wearing, very specific, I mean, very specific, very simple, very consistent question, should we have mask wearing nationally? And he goes to the both sides of some people don't think masks are a good idea. That's just not true, and if you can't have truth in a debate, then you really don't have much else to go on.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: We're going to leave it there. Dr. Dara Kass, always good to see you.