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Governor Cuomo confirms first case of UK COVID-19 variant in NY

The Monsoon Diaries Founder and CEO Dr. Calvin Sun joined Yahoo Finance to break down the latest details of the UK's COVID-19 variant and its spread to New York.

Video Transcript

- So we want to bring in Dr. Calvin Sun. He's the Monsoon Diaries founder and CEO and also clinical assistant professor and attending physician with Mount Sinai Health System. And Dr. Sun, we know you're extremely busy, so thanks so much for taking the time to join us. Let's start with the dire situation that we're seeing play out across the United States, especially, though, in the state of California. We talked earlier about LA County paramedics being told not to transport some patients with low chances of survival. I'm curious if this is a scenario or a likely scenario that we could see play out in other states over the next couple of months.

CALVIN SUN: Thank you for having me, and, sadly, the likely scenario has already played out. It happened in New York City in March and April. We've seen that remak where EMS were instructed not to bring in cardiac arrest to the hospital, especially if they couldn't revive them for more than five minutes. That means they're going to leave you for dead. That has already happened. We're speaking as if this is a worsening trend, but I think that we did sound the alarm bells back in March and April.

I'm not just in Mt. Sinai. I'm a per diem clinical assistant professor across the majority if not all the hospital systems in New York. I'm right now in the emergency room doing a shift for four hours because I had to cover for a doctor. We're repeating ourselves. It's a broken record all over again, and whatever happened in New York in March and April has already happened, not only in LA and California for the third time over, it's going to happen everywhere else. Because nothing is being done to change and prevent all this. Because it happened before March and April. No matter how much we sounded alarms, it's happening again. It will happen a third and fourth and fifth and sixth time.

- Dr. Sun, I live not too far from a hospital here on the East side of Manhattan, and I remember watching the buses bringing in the volunteers from other parts of the country to help us here in New York. Now there's not enough doctors and enough nurses and enough medical folk to take care of all of this. For instance, in New York City, you understand how all of this coordination takes place. How does it get coordinated? Is it through the mayor's office? Because they were talking about setting up the convention center the 1,000 bed hospital again. Beds alone won't solve the problem, but who takes the lead on this thing?

CALVIN SUN: It's a lot of chefs in the kitchen right now. We have offered to set up medical staff. I did the medical screening for the New Year's Eve ball drop, the supervising staff for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. We can set all this up. The New York City marathon. That's all done in tandem and ad hoc, but the problem that, is there a budget? Is there enough staff members, and who's taking charge? When you have too many chefs in the kitchen saying yes and no to these offers from so many staff who want to help, but then being told that they can't, or they're being furloughed, or there's not enough money to go around, or there's too many competing hospital systems.

It's a mess. Right now I'm speaking to you from an emergency room after just dealing with a trauma with N95 masks here and only being allowed to work four hours because doctors are sick, and they don't have enough pay I guess to cover all 12. I don't know what it is. It's just this is the state of affairs in New York City, and I think we're actually doing way better than the rest of the country. So the answer is, it really depends on which lens you're looking at, but right now there's just too many things going on for people to make sense of it right now.

- Doctor, when you talk about all this stress that you clearly face in a normal situation day in and day out, but then compound that with what we're seeing with the coronavirus. How are you feeling? How are your colleagues feeling? Is this something that is sustainable here? When we talk about this post holiday potential surge, we talk about the fact that the new highly contagious strain was now found or detected in the New York area. How does that complicate matters at this point?

CALVIN SUN: That word sustainable was something that we discussed for years. It's like the Cassandra complex where I think that things were raising alarm bells in March and April. And then to see it repeat itself across the country despite everything we warned the rest of the country from New York City, and then see it play out over and over and over again in the last nine months is exactly what we went through before this pandemic came around.

We've been sounding the alarm bells about how unsustainable the health care system was when the majority of how we pay our physicians across hospitals is depending on elective surgery, something completely unrelated to emergency room visits or the way insurance is billed or whatever the things that are way beyond our pay grades. But we just notice things on the ground. It was festering, and we knew it was going to collapse at any moment. These things, these problems existed way before a pandemic, just like our socioeconomic inequities and all the access to health care. All that was made more clear by the pandemic. The pandemic simply clarified already long existing institutional problems. It didn't create new ones. And I feel tired.

- So I'm going to ask you as we wrap up. Yeah, I would imagine. With just a minute left, we know what we have to do. Wear a mask, social distance, all of that stuff. It doesn't sound like your field, your men and women, are going to get any kind of respite in the near future, whether it's a new administration or not. Because, as you said, too many chefs, and it's just kind of a mess. And, even if they were to do the funding now, we're having the spike upon the spike, aren't we?

CALVIN SUN: Yes, it's kind of like when COVID came out. They were telling us, oh, it's droplet, no, it's airborne. No, you should wear contact. And then in April, they were like, oh, it's not spread by surfaces. And that's exactly what I meant by too many chefs in the kitchen where they're telling us one thing and then changing it up on us. And then WHO says something and the CDC says something, and we're just running around with our heads cut off. And trying to take care of this deluge, drowning in poo. Trying to take care of this pandemic as if we're going to war, but there's no relief coming.

And all the residents, all the people in training that were supposed to take over, the new wave of new grads. They can't even find a job right now because there's not enough money to pay for them because we canceled all the elective surgeries across the country. And the people who needed those elective surgeries are the ones that are affected by COVID. They're no longer around to do those elective surgeries. It's just a negative feedback cycle, and we're exhausted.

Yes, a new administration is hopeful, but these are hopeful signs. They take months and not years to undo institutional damage that has been already festering for so long that we've been talking about for so long before this pandemic. And it's just, again, the Cassandra complex. We can say so much, but you can hear so much, but nothing's being done. We fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

- Dr. Calvin Sun, we know you're extremely busy. We really appreciate all the work that you and your colleagues are doing during this time. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us. We really appreciate it.

CALVIN SUN: Thank you for having me.