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El Paso imposes curfew as COVID-19 cases overwhelm Texas hospitals

Dr. Owais Durrani, Emergency Medicine Resident Physician, UT Health San Antonio, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to discuss the surge in U.S. coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: As I mentioned earlier, we are seeing surges not just here in the United States, as those daily case counts at record highs, but also globally. In Europe, new restrictions are now being imposed as cases soar there. So let's chat this now with Dr. Owais Durrani, emergency medicine resident physician at UT Health San Antonio. Doctor, thank you so much for joining us today.

As I mentioned, we're now seeing those case counts rise across the globe. Europe imposing those new restrictions. Russia imposing a mask mandate. I guess, I'm going to just ask you what I'm sure everyone's been asking lately-- are we in the middle of a second wave right now?

OWAIS DURRANI: Yes, we are, unfortunately. You know, looking at a lot of the European countries, they did a much better job of using public health measures, contact tracing, and other methods of trying to control their initial wave. We didn't really do that here in the United States. So we've been kind of going on and up and up this entire time. But they did a good job. They were able to control that wave.

A combination of factors, you know, pandemic fatigue, which we're all experiencing, colder weather, which brings everyone inside, and then simply knowing that the coronavirus family of viruses is a seasonal virus, and it appears that COVID is acting in that similar way, in a seasonal way.

And so that combination is bringing Europe into a second wave and is bringing us into, you know, a-- what do you want to call it? A second, third, or just that initial wave, kind of more and more cases. We're seeing lots of curfews and lockdowns across Europe. And I think those are the right moves.

They're painful moves, but they're moves that are needed once you get to a certain positivity and threshold level that after that, you're just going to essentially run out of room in your hospitals. And we, you know, in El Paso, have curfews.

And it looks like they're starting to spread across the country in terms of more stricter guidelines. And I think those are the right moves. And communities that aren't heeding those warnings need to really look to implement some of these measures.

KRISTIN MYERS: So how bad-- I mean, let's just talk about that. What you're saying sounds like a lot of warnings. How bad do you think it can get here, especially given the fact that, you know, yes, we do have lockdowns. We do have some of those curfews being imposed. But they are targeted.

And we are still seeing in some states-- I mean, here, even in New York, people are still going to eat. They're even eating indoors. We're seeing more and more people really wanting to get out. They are traveling. So how bad do you think it's going to get as we have these surges, on the one hand? Frankly, people have huge amounts of COVID fatigue. They're tired of being cooped up, and they want to get out of the house.

OWAIS DURRANI: Yeah, 100%. And as I mentioned, I have COVID fatigue. My colleagues have COVID fatigue. It's something that we have, but we have to mentally kind of get over that hurdle, kind of reset and say, you know, it's going to be a tough fall, tough winter. But we've got to get through it.

You know, you mentioned Russia. For example, they implemented a mask mandate again and curbed nightlife. And those are things that we need to be doing in our communities. In Texas, for example, in July, we were at an all-time high when it came to cases. We had a mask mandate put in place. All the bars were closed. And we were able to back off of that.

And so we know that scientists and researchers are working hard on therapeutics and vaccines. But the things that work are these basic measures that we've been talking about since day one. And I applaud many European and Russia and those countries for doing that. A lot of our communities are doing that, but it needs to be messaging that is spread on a national level and every community, every city, rural, urban, everywhere.

KRISTIN MYERS: So how much can those targeted restrictions, as you're seeing in El Paso, that two-week curfew, some of those essentially shutdowns in New York, New Jersey-- as I mentioned, they're requiring that all nonessential businesses must close by 8:00 PM. How helpful are they to essentially combat the spread, these targeted initiatives, especially in a world, in a society where people are freely moving from state to state, city to city?

OWAIS DURRANI: Yeah, so you know, I'll begin with saying when you do impose curfews and full lockdowns of cities, that is, A, necessary at that point. But B, it means that the things that you did or didn't do prior to that failed essentially.

And so, for example, in El Paso, those of us in Texas that have been kind of looking at the numbers, they've been trending up in cases and positivity rate in that community for about the past four to six weeks. They really didn't do much about it.

They suggested mask wearing, kind of basic public health measures, but nothing that was enforceable, not really breaking up gatherings. There were a lot of those contact tracing results that showed tailgates, birthday parties, small family gatherings that led to a lot of spread over the past six weeks or so. But nothing was really done about it.

And then, positivity rates grew, hospitalizations grew. And they ran out of ICU beds. They ran out of hospital capacity. And so, you know, once you get to that point, yeah, you have to lockdown. You have to put in a curfew in place. And you're still not going to see the results of those things for another two weeks or so.

So unfortunately, they're still going to need those field hospitals. They're still going to get more positivity, positive cases. And if people heed the warnings, follow the curfew, stay locked down, then they might start to see some relief in about two weeks or so.

But I think the important thing for the rest of the country is, you know, look at communities in New Jersey, in El Paso, in Utah. And before your community gets to that point, really, really focus on those public health measures so we don't have to go into a curfew mode or a lockdown mode again.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now Dr. Fauci-- because I want to ask you about vaccines before we have to end this conversation. Dr. Fauci said that those early vaccines, these vaccines that we keep hearing about, would only prevent symptoms. They would not kill the virus. What does that mean for us going forward, especially as we hear the president, pharmaceutical company execs come out and say, a vaccine is coming in just a couple of weeks and months.

OWAIS DURRANI: Exactly, yeah. So I kind of-- you know, we all get the flu vaccine, or hopefully we all get the flu vaccine every year. And, you know, some years, you are doing great. Other years, you still get a milder-- a version of the flu. So you get some symptoms, but it's not as bad as the full blown flu. And so I would compare it to that.

You know, the first iteration of the vaccine is not going to be the best one. You might need two doses of it. It's going to be something that is better than nothing, but it's not going to be a magic bullet. And so I think that's what we, as a global community, have to realize, that the vaccine or any therapeutic will be helpful, but it's not going to be the magic bullet that fixes everything on whatever day it's released.

And so the public health measures that, you know, I'm talking about, that public health professionals are talking about, they need to be something that we're going to be following for, you know, I would anticipate the rest of 2021, and, if not, beyond that.