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Waiting for COVID-19 testing results is 'still too long': Doctor

Infectious diseases physician Dr. Payal Patel joins Yahoo Finance’s Akiko Fujita to discuss the outlook on the COVID-19 vaccine race and how the Trump administration is handling the pandemic.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: More than 5.8 million Americans have now contracted the coronavirus, roughly 181,000 Americans have died, far more than any other country. And in Michigan, the state is looking at a grim milestone. 100,000 cases now in that state alone. Let's bring in Dr. Payal Patel, she's an infectious disease physician in Michigan. And Dr. Patel, it's great to have you on today. Let's start with that milestone we're looking at in your state. What do the caseloads look like for you where you are? And how have things improved?

PAYAL PATEL: Yeah, I think that we were one of the first states to really hit a peak with COVID early on. We were seeing a lot of cases where I work, which is in Ann Arbor, as well as [INAUDIBLE] near Detroit. What's changed over time, is that Michigan is a very large state, and we're seeing more cases kind of spread throughout the state at this point.

And testing has actually increased, which is great. And I think that some of the numbers that are rising with the cases, we have currently less patients in-patient with COVID right now, but we're not seeing trends all the way down. I think we're still seeing some oscillation along the way. So it's really hard to predict what the next months will look like.

AKIKO FUJITA: You talk about the testing situation improving there. There are some questions about the new CDC guidelines that have come out that essentially says, if you are not symptomatic, you don't necessarily need to get tested. And the question was, did the CDC put that out because of the strain that's been put on testing right now. What's the capacity where you are right now? Do you have enough test kits in place to get a good grasp of how the virus is spreading in the community?

PAYAL PATEL: Yeah, that's a great question. I think that definitely in terms of how many tests are available and time to get your answer to your test, we have improved. However, there is still much distance that could be easier. And so people have proposed home testing. There are some tests that are being run that you could actually have at home that wouldn't involve what some people call a brain biopsy, or it sounds so scary to get tested, and I think that stops people from getting tested.

Having an easier way to get tested and having a quicker turnaround I think would really help people feel more comfortable getting tested. And we're still not there. And I think the infectious disease community is very behind more testing, so that we can know who actually has COVID.

AKIKO FUJITA: We've seen both the Republicans and Democrats put the coronavirus health crisis right at the center of their conventions. I want to play for you what President Trump said yesterday and get your thoughts on the other end.

DONALD TRUMP: We launched the largest national mobilization since World War II, invoking the Defense Production Act. We produced the world's largest supply of ventilators. Not a single American who has needed a ventilator has been denied a ventilator, which is a miracle.

Dr. Patel, you heard the president really sort of hail what he sees as a success story in the response. That line about nobody being denied a ventilator, we heard Vice President Mike Pence talk about that as well. What's the reality that you've seen on the ground when you look back to how things have progressed since March?

PAYAL PATEL: I think anyone looking at kind of what we've seen in the United States doesn't think that we should sit on our laurels. So I don't think that we should be necessarily celebrating at this point. I think we should really be thinking about where we are compared to many other countries and how they've done in their response, and what we need to do to really bring the virus under control. And that really includes better testing, continuing the public health measures. Because we're in the same spot that we were in April. We don't have a cure, we don't have a vaccine. And I think that's the problem, is thinking that we have somehow succeeded. We're still in this fight right now.

AKIKO FUJITA: You talk about the politicization of so many fronts on the coronavirus. The vaccine is one concern. You've had the FDA commissioner, Steven Hahn, walking back some comments he made about the treatment with convalescent plasma and the efficacy. Now we're hearing reports of a lot of patients concerned about any kind of vaccine that comes to market because of the way that it's been sped through. I mean, how big of a challenge does that present to you when you want more patients to get the vaccine when it comes to market, particularly because it overlaps with the flu season?

PAYAL PATEL: Yeah, I think you can't actually underline how important it's going to be to get as many people vaccinated as possible. If you think about the numbers every year of family and friends that listeners have that don't get the flu vaccine. I mean, we need to double those numbers to really get to what people want, which is herd immunity. So I think while we're waiting, while we're waiting for the vaccine, instead of just relaxing, we should be actually focusing from a federal, state and academic viewpoint on how to increase vaccine uptake in the entire country.

AKIKO FUJITA: Dr. Payal Patel, infectious disease physician in Michigan, great to talk to you.

PAYAL PATEL: Thanks.