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COVID-19 pandemic is ‘far from over in other parts of the world’: Doctor

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Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, President of Aventura Pulmonary Institute, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: The United States has now, sadly, surpassed the threshold of 600,000 deaths due to coronavirus, while patients who have recovered from the virus are now experiencing new medical problems. We're joined now by Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, President of the Aventura Pulmonary Institute. So, doctor, curious to know-- how alarming is it that some of these recovered patients are experiencing these new medical problems?

There was a long list-- shortness of breath, other breathing issues, fatigue, general malaise. I've heard folks talk about this COVID brain fog that they've been in ever since that they've recovered from the virus. How alarming is that? Is there any indication that some of these symptoms, these new medical problems might go away soon?

GUSTAVO FERRER: It is an excellent study. I can tell you that my team and I, we have been seeing this for the last nine months or so, to the point that we opened a specific time that we call it post-COVID clinic. And the patients that are coming to our clinics are exactly what is described in the study-- they have fatigue, shortness of breath, very nonspecific symptoms, but nonetheless limiting-- life-limiting symptoms.

And so we perform all the tests. We see a large number of patients that within three to six months they get better. But unfortunately, we're still following patients that had COVID back in March last year that are still having shortness of breath and other symptoms.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Doctor, yesterday, we saw New York and California, two states hit earliest and hardest by the pandemic, sort of triumphantly announcing that they had lifted virtually all of their COVID-19 restrictions. They said they did this because they were able to hit vaccination milestones. About 70% of residents in both of those states have gotten at least one vaccine dose.

But we're still seeing people coming down with COVID. We still have over 600,000 deaths in this country. And we still have variants out there. So I ask, are those sort of victory parades a little premature right now?

GUSTAVO FERRER: I believe so. If we look into the entire map of COVID-19, all this, it's looking better for America. But it's far from over in other parts of the world. Not far from here, we have Dominican Republic with an outbreak of COVID and going into the third week. We have Brazil, Chile, Argentina-- all these countries in the South, they are having the same issues.

And we see this in influenza when we see a tough season toward the Southern Hemisphere. We are expecting that that may happen here in the fall. And the winter so now we have the research of the Delta variant of the virus that is taking prevalence in Europe. We see England actually delaying reopening for about a week and observing the data carefully.

In other parts of the world, they are planning-- India is projecting that it may have another wave by the fall. So we all need to work and put our parts into this. I think early victory could be a problem and could be a mistake.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now, doctor, some of those countries that you actually just highlighted have actually been open to tourists. Curious to know if there's some concern right now, especially as we see some of those TSA numbers really spiking-- two million passengers being screened, Europe is reopening its borders to vaccinated tourists.

If there is a concern that there could be some kind of wave or outbreak from all of this travel here in the United States, or is it the case that if you are vaccinated, you shouldn't be worried or concerned to travel to another country and to, perhaps, bring back a variant or a strain and spread it to your loved ones and family members that are not yet vaccinated?

GUSTAVO FERRER: That's an excellent question. I would say three things-- number one, the vaccines are intended to lower the severity of the illness. And data does show that decreases the transmission of the most common variants that we have circulating out there. But it needs to be seen what's going to happen with this new variant.

Early data shows that it can help and it may help. But nonetheless, we also see in those countries in the southern hemisphere having issues with vaccinated patients. A good number of vaccinated patients are becoming positive and developing moderate to severe disease. So they are-- I think we need-- there's no question that we need to reopen our economies and keep moving.

But that has to be done in step wise. And we have to be careful and wise to follow all the rules that took us to this point that we are now reaching today.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Doctor, if I heard you correctly, are you saying that even those who have been fully vaccinated are contracting coronavirus? And if they are, what kinds of symptoms are they having? Are these mild cases? And how are they able to pass it on to others? How contagious is that?

GUSTAVO FERRER: That's an excellent question if we looked into it, first, we need to know and we need to be clear that the vaccines, they are not 100% effective. This is not going to happen. Vaccines always have-- we will run-- we are blessed that these vaccines are reaching the 90%.

But we have a significant number of the population that will be vaccinated and will develop the infection. Now, how effective the vaccines are going to be to the common variants and the variants that they're resurfacing in India and other parts of the world also needs to be watched carefully. So I would say if you are fully vaccinated, this is great because we do have a strong data supporting that the vaccine decreases that transmission and the severity of the illness.

But we also need to remain careful around people that are not vaccinated or people that are susceptible even when they are vaccinated to develop severe disease. The high risk category especially-- obesity, diabetes, hypertension-- we all need to remain very vigilant and careful with that.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, President of the Aventura Pulmonary Institute, thanks so much for breaking all of that down for us.