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Gov. Ducey’s decision to block COVID-19 policies for universities is ‘not based in science’: Doctor

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Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, Emergency Medicine Physician, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss to discuss the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

- Welcome back. Americans can start packing their bags for Europe now that the European Union has agreed to lift travel restrictions for US residents. And yet another milestone in our fight against COVID-19. Joining us now to talk about it and more is Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, an emergency medicine physician. Doctor, good to see you again. Is this the right time for the EU to be lifting these restrictions? We have the spread of potentially dangerous COVID variants now popping up. We even have England, not part of the EU any longer, but saying it's going to keep things in lock down until at least July 19. Is this decision by the EU a little premature?

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Well, thank you for having me. It's good to be here with you all. And I think that's a great question. Obviously, as you mentioned, the UK is not part of these lifted travel allowances. And I think it's important that we be mindful of the guidelines that go along with lifting these restrictions. They are still asking that people be vaccinated. They are also asking that people continue to follow the guidelines that are in place in those local areas.

So if you are traveling to various countries in the EU, if they are asking for masks and social distancing in stores and restaurants and so forth, to make sure people are mindful of that and not just thinking that, well if the restrictions have been lifted, then anything goes. I think we have to continue to realize that there are people in our communities that cannot be immunized, that are not protected. And it's incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we are doing our part to not just keep ourselves safe but everybody around us safe as well.

- So doctor, around the fall time is when we've been hearing that we might be needing to get some of these booster shots. I'm just curious to know, especially as we are starting to travel more and more, we hear about some of these variants, the delta variant is one that has been spreading. And we hear about how they impact folks, even those that have been vaccinated. Is there possibly a concern, especially as we get into a year after folks have been vaccinated, if we haven't received those booster shots, if these variants are still out there and infecting people that there is still a chance that perhaps we might get those variants even if we have been vaccinated?

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yeah, and that is really the conundrum. And so I would say, look, the first job at hand is to get everybody in that initial vaccination, that chapter, completed. We are not at 70% across the country. We do have many states that have reached that. But not all states have certainly reached that milestone. My own state of Arizona certainly has not.

And I think that is where we have to put all of our focus and attention, is to make sure that everybody has received that initial set of vaccinations and has that protection. Because what we are doing is we are just allowing more opportunity for those variants to develop. The whole point of herd immunity, and this is a really important point. Because I'm hearing from people now that are saying, well, if you're vaccinated, great. I can't bother you. I can't infect you.

The point is that if people are out there who can be safely vaccinated but are choosing not to, they are potential hosts for the virus. And what that allows them to do is obviously multiply the virus, spread the virus. And realize that there are people in our communities that cannot be vaccinated or cannot produce enough of an immune response to protect themselves.

So that's the concept of herd immunity is to make sure that as many people that can be vaccinated are. And therefore, we are essentially not able to be a host for that virus. So not only can we not pass around the regular coronavirus strain, but also we are not host to create those variants. And we are not more vulnerable therefore to things like the delta variant. And that is the whole goal of getting vaccinated is to prevent the time that that virus needs to continue to propagate itself.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Doctor, you mentioned your state of Arizona, there's some news coming out of there. The governor of the state signing an executive order telling universities they cannot mandate that students get vaccinated. They cannot mandate that students get COVID-19 antigen tests, or even wear masks. What are your feelings on that? And is that just a hotbed of virus waiting to happen come the fall when these students are going to go back to the classroom?

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yeah. It's incredibly short sighted. And frankly, I believe it's politically motivated. This is not based in science. These recommendations were made by public health experts. It follows the public health guidelines, it follows the science, and the data to make sure that students are vaccinated. And if they aren't, it's simple. We're going to follow the same guidelines we followed before. You're going to wear masks, you're going to have to socially distance, you're going to have to get COVID tested.

I mean, think about it. That's what we did before. It doesn't change now because some of the population is vaccinated until all of those kids are vaccinated that can be or we reach that level of herd immunity where we are essentially at a very low threshold of worry. So I think, unfortunately, Governor Ducey has made a decision that is based in politics rather than in science.

As you all know, for our public schools, for our schools everywhere, for universities, they require vaccination records for students. So this is in no way any different. We are not in any way trying to strongarm people into getting vaccines. We are trying to make sure that people understand the risk. The risk is still there. And if you are not vaccinated, we are going to try to minimize the risk for both yourself as well as those around you by making sure you're wearing a mask, by making sure you get tested, and that you are socially distancing.

This is the idea of public health. This is what we need to follow. And it is unfortunate that Governor Ducey is turning this into a political issue rather than letting the science dictate. Because we have to be mindful. And until we are at that level of herd immunity-- and as you said, it is a hotbed of virus waiting to spread. I mean, you're talking about close quarters, you're talking about dormitories, these are the exact settings, classrooms-- this is the exact setting where the virus can quickly be transmitted.

And especially if there's issues of poor ventilation in our current temperature right now, we have temperatures of 115, 118, these classrooms even in August, they will not be ventilated as easily. We won't have open windows. We will be talking about large numbers of kids that are in rooms, poor ventilation, close quarters. That is a perfect hotbed for spread.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah. I see the ceiling fan going there in the background. You guys are going through a heat wave right now. We wish you all the best of luck there in Arizona. Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, thanks so much for being with us.