Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Senior Scholar joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel to discuss how some states are coping with the rapid rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
ADAM SHAPIRO: I do want to bring into this discussion Amesh Adalja-- Dr. Amesh Adalja who's the Senior Scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. And a lot of us worry about our hospitals being ready to take an influx of more patients. So what steps can places like Arizona take if they're already beyond the curve, if they're not where they need to be now?
AMESH ADALJA: Well, they need to really think about reactivating their emergency operations plans. That might include trying to convert parts of the hospital into ICU bed space so that they can take care of the patients they're going to get. They may need to be more judicious about their scheduled surgeries, which are colloquially called elective surgeries, to decide which ones need to go forward, which ones they can postpone a little bit. They need to think about their staffing, their personal protective equipment, all of the same types of considerations we heard about in March. That has to be back into play now as they get inundated with cases.
And then they have to work very strongly with their health departments at the state and local levels to try and stop this spread from occurring. Get better contact tracing. Make sure that that's all robust because that's the only way that we're going to get out of this is by trying to keep those cases to a level that is manageable by the hospitals. And when they get in trouble, we're going to see these types of consequences.
DAN ROBERTS: Dr. Adalja, Dan Roberts here. In your expert opinion, as we look around the country now and we're seeing troubling numbers about spikes in cases-- you know, Texas had its highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations it's had since the beginning of the pandemic I think on Tuesday. For people who are starting to think about traveling, especially if certain states are, you know, reopened and restaurants are allowing outdoor dining and in many areas even indoor dining as long as you have a mask or as long as you socially distance, do you have any advice, precaution? I mean, should people not be traveling? Should they not be venturing out to the extent that they have been doing so? Are states reopening too quickly, in your opinion?
AMESH ADALJA: So this is going to be something that's not a one size fits all type of answer. It's really going to depend on the local dynamics and transmission of this virus. What's going on in that area? What do the hospitals look like? And what's your personal risk tolerance and your risk factors for severe disease?
So the important point to remember is the virus hasn't gone anywhere. We really had to enforce social distancing to preserve hospital capacity. So in many states, hospital capacity is OK. We're worrying about Arizona and some other places, but in many places it is fine, and it's going to really fall to individuals to decide what's best for them.
And there are some common-sense types of measures you can take by trying to maintain social distancing, by washing your hands frequently, touching your face less, trying to avoid very crowded places, sitting outside if you can. And I think that's going to be how we move forward in this pandemic, that it's really going to be learning to live with this virus, reducing the harm that the virus causes but realizing that it's going to be with us in everything we do until there is a vaccine.
ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Anjalee here. I know that one of the concerns originally was that there would be some of this sort of spike and rise in cases as restrictions ease, and so we are seeing that. What is your opinion of where that is coming from and what the sort of underlying issues are?
AMESH ADALJA: Well, you know that any type of social interaction is going to be an opportunity for the virus to jump from person to person. That's just a simple biological fact. We're going to get more cases and hospitalizations.
And as people-- as people travel, as they start going out, as they start interacting with people, enlarging the circle of people that they've been interacting with, as businesses start to open, you're going to see this virus transmit. And the key is really going to make sure that our hospitals and our health-care departments or health departments, actually, have the capacity to do contact tracing because that's the main key now is being very intensive with these contact investigations, finding the cases that were exposed, and isolating them, testing them as necessary, and trying to prevent these undetected chains of transmission from bubbling over into hospitals.
That's what's going to have to happen now because it's simply the fact that this virus is with us. It's established itself in the human population, and we're going to get cases anytime people interact.
AKIKO FUJITA: Amesh, one of the things we haven't talked about, I feel like, in weeks is critical supplies and where we are in terms of hospitals getting a handle on that. And I'm wondering, you know, sure, we're seeing these big spikes, but is there [INAUDIBLE] to be made that some of these states that maybe didn't see the kind of wave that we saw here in New York City, they're in a better position to handle this because those supplies are more readily available than they were 2 and 1/2 months ago?
AMESH ADALJA: That's definitely the case. This is now June 2020. We're much better now than we were in March of 2020 at being able to deal with the personal protective equipment, the mechanical ventilators, the ancillary supplies. We still have to be very vigilant because shortages could occur, and we want to make sure the supply chain is robust and we don't have any supply shocks. But yes, I do think that we're in a better position to handle these cases now than we were three months ago, and that may be why we won't see a return to enforced social distancing because hospitals, even though they might be stressed, will be able to meet that capacity, and we're getting much better logistically at getting resources to hospitals that need them.
ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Amesh, how does this affect us as we're looking for that fall/winter, right? We've had all the White House advisors and leading experts saying that. What's your-- what are your thoughts on how this sort of resurgence, if you will, around the country is going to affect preparations for later this year?
AMESH ADALJA: Well, I do think that we're going to see intensification of the spread as we get into respiratory-virus syndrome-- season in the fall in the winter, and this is sort of a trial run. This is what we're going to be dealing with, these kind of periodic spikes and waves that kind of go around the country in dyssynchronous times. It's not going to be one homogeneous outbreak. It's going to be little hot spots pop up here and there, and we're going to have to be able to put the fires out. This is exactly what we're going to have to be getting used to as the new normal as this virus is with us until there's a vaccine.
And I do think that we really need to make sure that we don't get into this kind of trouble in the fall when we're contending with influenza at the same time, which is going to be competing for the same resources.
ADAM SHAPIRO: We appreciate your being here. Dr. Amesh Adalja, he's the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security senior scholar. Good to see you today.