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Doctor on decline in COVID-19: ‘the cases still remain higher than what we’ve seen during wave 1’

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COVID-19 deaths decline in the U.S. as cases fall. Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Dr. Nada Fadul joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to "Yahoo Finance Live." A bit of a pro/con situation on the coronavirus pandemic front. As we've been highlighting, cases in the US continue to fall in terms of their daily average count relative to where we were back in January. But still, more alarm is being raised in the medical community around those new variants. We're hearing now from the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, raising exactly the same outlook that we heard from the CEO of Moderna here on this show, that this pandemic could be with us, the coronavirus could be with us for years to come, requiring booster shots for several years.

Here to break down where we sit-in this pandemic fight, I want to bring in our next guest, Dr. Nada Fadul joins us right now, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. And Dr. Fadul, I mean, obviously, we're still learning a lot about these variants and increasingly hearing about cases in the US but what do you make of what we know about these? And really how it's a lot of the same things we had in place to fight this just make sure that you're masking a social distancing, what do you make of it?

NADA FADUL: Well, thank you for having me. I think the important point to recognize is that while the cases decline and while we're seeing the biggest decline we've seen the trajectory of COVID-19 so far, the cases still remain higher than what we've seen during wave one, during the surge that we saw during the first wave. And we're still seeing a lot of death from this virus.

So even though we're seeing a decline, I think it's a little too early to celebrate and say we're making victory. It's a little too early for states to relax their control measures because we might end up losing a lot of the gains that we made against this virus because the truth with this virus is that the more it spreads, the more it mutates. And mutations lead to viruses which are more contagious and can spread much easier in the community. So that's what I mean by losing these gains.

The other danger of mutations is that we might end up with a virus that is resistant to some of the vaccines that we have right now and some of the therapeutics that we have right now. And that's really going to be alarming. So it's going to take a lot for the science to keep up with the mutations of these viruses because RNA viruses are known to mutate very rapidly.

So we really need to be careful. We need to control the spread of this virus in the community.

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, I mean, even with some of those cautionary tales that you've mentioned, we are, in fact, seeing states as well as cities relax some of those rules, to your point. Here in New York City, indoor dining set to begin on Valentine's Day. What's likely to come out of something like that as we see sort of this tension we've seen throughout the pandemic, which is, on the one hand, health experts warning caution and on the other hand, just this frustration of sort of being restricted for such a long time, whether that is at restaurants or just being asked to stay at home?

NADA FADUL: Yeah, I mean, this has been really challenging for us, to be honest, as infectious disease doctors and public health specialists because we feel like we're Debbie downers. We're the ones who are constantly telling people to stay home, to be careful. But we're saying that for a reason because we really want to go back to normal. And we want to go back to a good normal. We don't to go back to a normal where we lost a lot of family members and friends along this journey.

So that's why we're saying-- you know, I know people are tired. I know we want to go back to normal. I know Valentine's is coming on. And we want to have fun. But let's do it carefully. Let's do it very cautiously. It's really hard to tell people to stop everything right now. But we can still enjoy our lives but do it with a lot of caution and a lot of care to minimize the spread of this virus while we're enjoying it.

ZACK GUZMAN: And doctors certainly have the right to be Debbie downers, as the ones who are dealing with this on the front lines. But when we look at what would be-- I hear your point on this being a critical time period because it seems like, you know, you get those vaccines out, while they're effective, you reduce the amount of cases, and you protect and save lives at the same time. But when it comes to the progress on that front, considering now that we are watching these variants, how important does it become to really throw everything you can in terms of effort in getting those doses out into the arms of Americans right now?

NADA FADUL: Yes, it's absolutely critical. It's very critical that we get vaccines to people who need them. And it's very critical that we have equitable access to vaccines for those people who are outside of the health care system who don't have access to internet, to computers where they can go to the state website and sign up, we need to get the vaccine to them rather than wait for them to come to get the vaccine. So access and equity in distribution is very important right now, especially considering that minority communities suffer the most from this virus.

So we need to do everything possible to make sure the vaccine gets to them and not wait for them to get to the vaccine. And also dispelling a lot of the myths around vaccination in these communities and using the right resources to help get them the right information so they can make informed decisions.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, education certainly still a big part of trying to get more and more people vaccinated. Doctor, you mentioned in the commercial break that this is the new flu when we're talking about the virus itself. What exactly do you mean by that? And how do you think people should be looking at the coronavirus in the long term, even if we get past the peak, the most difficult stage? Is this virus going to stay with us for a very long time?

NADA FADUL: I think it's going to stay with us. I think we're going to see these hopefully very small peaks and valleys of the virus. We're not going to see what we're seeing right now. But I think we need to be prepared that this virus is here to stay. We're hoping at some point it's not going to be as lethal, it's not going to be as contagious. But we need to be prepared to be dealing with this for a few years down the line and maybe for the rest of our lives.

AKIKO FUJITA: It's a very sobering message there. Dr. Nada Fadul, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It's good to talk to you today.