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The fight against COVID-19 is a ‘team sport’: Doctor

Florida International University Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine Dr. Geeta Nayyar joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest vaccine outlook as COVID-19 cases rise.

Video Transcript

- Well, states across the country are scrambling to impose new restrictions as coronavirus infections overwhelm hospitals. We're now talking about 90,000 hospitalizations in one day. That is 17 straight days of records now, 1.2 million infections reported in just one week.

Let's bring in Dr. Geeta Nayyar. She is a Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at Florida International University. And Dr. Nayyar, it's good to talk to you. Let's start by just what you're seeing on the ground there in Miami where you are. How rapidly have these infection rates gone up? And what's your biggest concern?

GEETA NAYYAR: Sure. First, well, thanks so much for having me. Listen, it's been a really humbling holiday, right? We have a good number of folks that are doing what they should be, which is staying home, celebrating in their nuclear bubble, wearing a mask, and being really responsible, and really appreciating the spirit of the holiday, which is to take care of others.

But we also have just as many cases going up as the rest of the country. We're seeing hospitalizations rise. And the reality is the supply and the demand are not keeping pace, right? We're never going to have enough ventilators. We're never going to have enough talented doctors and nurses. So we really need to take this time to think very, very carefully about the next few weeks.

JEN ROGERS: So in the next few weeks, it's the lead-up to the Christmas holiday, the end of the year, New Year's. I mean, those are other times when families get together. Do you think that, you know, after Halloween, we were also told, look, we're going to see a spike because people got together. If we see one out of Thanksgiving, that Christmas we will see less travel, or are you also worried about people continuing to be out?

GEETA NAYYAR: Sure. So, Jen, first of all, I'm forever an optimist, right? I like to be very positive when I'm talking to my patients. So I remain very, very rigorous with my mantra, which is, it's up to us, right? It is completely up to us what happens between now and the end of the year.

That said, historically as a country, we have not done well, right? We can look at data from the Fourth of July, Halloween most recently, and Memorial Day. And unfortunately, we are going to see the data from this holiday as well. So it is 100% up to us.

You know, I equate this to drunk driving. Just because you got away with it maybe this one time as a family, it doesn't mean you should take the chance again. We've really got to remember what's important this holiday season. Keep our heads down and really focus on so much positivity in the upcoming new year

- I mean, you mentioned that a lot of families had smaller gatherings this year. But we also saw the scenes at some of these airports across the country, and they were quite packed. You look at what's happening over in Europe now. They have had strict restrictions in place. But they're looking to the Christmas holiday saying, well, we can maybe start to ease up just a little. How significant an uptick do you see on the back end of that? You said it's really all up to us. But it seems like there's a lot of fatigue right now that's playing out.

GEETA NAYYAR: Listen, I think there's absolutely fatigue. And I-- we're tired as well, right? The doctors are tired. The nurses are tired. We're all tired. I think it's completely OK to recognize that and acknowledge that. That said, this is the last inning of the game. This is the time when you run that last mile with all your adrenaline, heads down, focused on getting to the end.

So we have to remember this is a game. It's a team sport. Your coaches are your doctors. Lean on them if you have a question. Lean on them if you have college students that are debating their travel plans from now until the end of the year. We are here to help you and guide you.

But it's the team that's going to get us to the end, and that's all of us. That's all of us doing the right thing and the simple things. It's the same things we've been saying since the beginning. Please wear a mask, socially distance, wash your hands. It's the least we can do this holiday season so that we can all celebrate next year.

JEN ROGERS: I think people are envisioning this as some of the last innings because of the news on the various vaccines. How optimistic-- you said you're an optimist. How optimistic are you about these vaccines and the ability to roll them out quickly? When do you think we will be able to get together with our families and not be wearing masks?

GEETA NAYYAR: Sure. So it's a great question, right? And again, forever the optimist-- I think that the scientific, the medical community, has clearly led with collaboration to get us to this point, right? We have terrific data. We're not at the endgame yet. We need the FDA to weigh in.

But the reality is that vaccines are on the way. We should feel incredibly encouraged. We should feel that much more focused on getting to the end of the game. But we also have to realize that's tomorrow. And there are things we are learning through this process that we've never done before. So we might fumble the ball a few times. But we are absolutely going to get there.

And the important thing to remember is what we can do today to prepare for tomorrow because the reality is this is a long game. And this will not be available to the general population until mid to late next year. So there's a lot of work still to be done. But we should feel very optimistic about where we have come as a medical and scientific community.

- Doctor, what do you make of this news out of AstraZeneca? We heard the CEO say that essentially would have to do another phase III trial because the dosage was too small in their initial trials. This, of course, comes at a time when, in addition to these drugmakers trying to push forward on their trials here, there's also a game being played here of trying to convince the American public that these vaccines are safe. Is this a troubling report? Or is this pretty much par for the course in vaccine development?

GEETA NAYYAR: So you nailed it. This is par for the course. This is a journey of becoming a vaccine, right? And so the public is seeing this in a way that they've never seen before. But, you know, one day, you take a step forward. One day, you take a step back. The point is that we are well on a path forward to finding a vaccine to help us globally. And this should be very encouraging to everyone.

That said, vaccinations only work if we take them, right? And the person you're going to make this decision with is your doctor. Just like every vaccine you've ever taken, any vaccine you've taken for your child, you want to make sure you have that relationship. And you want to make sure that you're leaning on that physician in your community locally who knows you and your family. And so you should feel encouraged, and you should feel that you have a trusted source and advisor ready for you when the time comes to make the decision.