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Emergency room physician on coronavirus spread: 'we're not at our peak yet'

Big Apple Urgent Care Co-Founder and emergency room physician Dr. Tamara Moise joins Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith and Sibile Marcellus to discuss what she and other health care workers are facing as the spread of the coronavirus increases.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Well, for more on this, I want to bring in Dr. Tamara Moise. She's an emergency room physician and co-founder of Big Apple Urgent Care. And Dr. Moise, thank you so much for taking the time to join us. We know you are extremely busy, and thank you so much for all you are doing at this time. From the time that [INAUDIBLE] at work right now, what are you seeing on the front lines? Just trying to paint a picture for all of our viewers in terms of where this situation stands at this point.

TAMARA MOISE: Oh, OK. Well, thank you so much for having me on the show. And where we are right now, we're Big Apple Urgent Care, and I'm also an ER physician as well. So I'll be picking up some ER shifts soon. New York is pretty much in a pretty concerning situation right now, because our numbers are so high. Unfortunately, we're-- the hospitals and the urgent cares are running out of PPE, which-- the PPE means-- these are our gowns, the mask, the whole getup that I have on now. So we're having a shortage. We're having to ration. Things are very tough right now, and the emergency rooms are really getting it tough. It's really difficult.

SEANA SMITH: I appreciate that you're actually on with us right now, live on Finance Finance. Because I know that right before this, you had a patient that had to go to the emergency room, plus you've got other patients waiting, and like you said, you have shifts in the ER later today. So what has a typical day been like for you over the past two weeks with the coronavirus outbreak?

TAMARA MOISE: Well, from the urgent care standpoint, basically, we have folks that are-- a lot of people that are coming in with symptoms that are consistent, or that we're thinking that could be COVID, such as cough, fever, hard time breathing. So we are getting a lot of these patients. We're trying to at least test them for flu to make sure that they don't have flu. So we're doing everything that we can here.

Here at Big Apple, we're actually screening people outside, which is not the norm. We usually just let people in. However, since this has all happened, and because the incidence of COVID is so high in the New York City area-- we're here in Brooklyn-- so what we do, we don't let anyone just walk in. I have one of my medical assistants outside, that asks them a set of questions. So at least this helps us to separate those that may have COVID and separate them away from those who probably don't. So I have a pretty large facility, so I'm able to space them out. But I had to come up with a protocol on my own to make that happen.

And also, we're going to be implementing a telemedicine program. So I should have that up and running shortly. And basically, my goal is to use telemedicine for those who have the COVID-like symptoms, so I can keep them away from spreading it as much as possible. And also, too, if someone has a car, I am willing to go to their car and test them there, or do my evaluation there. It is a little tough because we're in Brooklyn, we're not in a suburban area, so most people don't have a car or did not use their car to get here. So those are some of the challenges that we have to deal with also.

DAN HOWLEY: Doctor, this is Dan Howley. I just want to ask, we saw that Governor Cuomo said that people are getting stopped up in New York now. The federal government, obviously, sending equipment now. Are you seeing that, on the front line, are you starting to see the equipment trickle in? Is it something that you're continuing to have to ration, or is it something that you have on hand?

TAMARA MOISE: I think things are-- they must just be rolling in, because I have not really had any word of-- I haven't been told that, hey, we have a whole new stock of N95s for you. I haven't been told that, so-- at the hospital, I'm not a hospital administrator, per se, so I don't know if they've received news of more PPE coming in. But for sure, as of yesterday, my friends that are at all the area hospitals, they're running out. So if they are coming in, which is wonderful, and Cuomo's been doing an awesome job, if they're coming in, they're probably trickling in, and we're probably going to get word of it little by little.

SEANA SMITH: And Governor Cuomo has been talking about finding a path to reopen New York State's economy, while also dealing with this. And also President Trump has said that he'd like to reopen the US economy by Easter. As a doctor who's watching coronavirus patients in front of you, treating them, do you think it's too soon? Or do you think there's a way to also have businesses reopen while we're dealing with this?

TAMARA MOISE: To be honest with you, I'm not experienced with finance and things of that nature. I know some about it, but at this point, I feel like we're not at our peak yet. So to say that we are-- that everything is going to be OK or a lot better by Easter, from this doctor's standpoint, I do not see that right now. Because our numbers are just climbing. We're not in a situation where the numbers are starting to go down a little bit. We're not there. We're not there. We have a long way to go.

I don't know how long we have to go, but we're not at our peak yet. So for us to say that everything is going to be OK by Easter, I think that's a little too early. I think we still need to just be taking our precautions and not having the mind frame that everything is going to end soon, because I think it's going to be a while. And I'm on the front lines, and I can tell you that. We're not at our peak yet. We're not at our peak yet.

SEANA SMITH: Dr. Moise, thank you again so much for all you are doing, you and your colleagues. We all really, really appreciate it. And thanks for taking the time to join us today.

TAMARA MOISE: My pleasure. You guys have a great day. Take care.