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Impact of Covid-19 virus variants on vaccine distribution

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“We have not seen enough downward numbers to constitute a solid trend,” Emergency Medicine Physician Hiral Tipirneni says about COVID-19 cases to Yahoo! Finance. “But we know that things are getting better, and I think a lot of that is attributed to… implementing these public health guidelines.”

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: We want to continue this conversation. For that, we want to bring in Dr. Hiral Tipirneni. She's an emergency medicine physician, also a former candidate for Congress in Arizona's 6th district. Dr. Tipirneni, it's great to have you back on the program.

Let's start with what we were just hearing from Anjalee in regards to schools reopening. We just got the guidance, I guess you can say, out from the CDC today, highlighting those five key strategies to reopen schools. This has really turned into a national debate. We've been talking about this for months. Where do you stand on it? And I guess, how safe do you think it is?

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Well, again, thank you for having me. It's good to talk with you. And I think this is really a turning point. I-- we're so excited about the news from the White House yesterday that President Biden and the administration have now secured the additional vaccines that will allow us to achieve herd immunity to make sure that all Americans that are eligible can receive their vaccine. So we are definitely making incredible progress. And I think that bodes well for what we can expect down the road, regarding our return to sort of our normal movement around society, whether schools opening and so forth.

That does not mean that's going to happen immediately. And that's where everybody has to take a pause and a breath, that we have to realize that we will be wearing masks for some time. We will have to maintain these-- the testing protocols and make sure there are periods of quarantine for folks who are exposed. We are not out of the woods, but we are on our path out. And we will have to be vigilant for quite some time.

So, as far as reopening, you know, we're going to have to sort of approach this the same way. We have to make sure that teachers are vaccinated, that all exposed staff and ancillary personnel are protected, make sure that we are implementing appropriate distancing guidelines in classrooms. They're still wearing masks. They're still doing temperature--

ADAM SHAPIRO: Doctor--

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: --checks, making sure-- yes.

ADAM SHAPIRO: About the schools reopening, though, what do you say to teachers-- because it's different state to state who's prioritized-- who haven't gotten the vaccine, can't get it because they're under the age of 65 in some states or under the age of 55? What do you say to them?

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Well, I say, look, I mean, obviously, we have a lot of folks that are at risk, and they're at more urgent risk, right? The folks that are being vaccinated right now, we're in phase 1B here in Arizona in Maricopa County. And that is still addressing people that are 75 and over. As of February 15th, they're expecting to lower that to 65 and over. So obviously, this is a matter of supply and demand.

And now that we have secured more vaccines that the Biden administration has secured, and they will be distributing them more directly to community health centers, we will probably see an acceleration in the rate of vaccinations. And absolutely, we put teachers and other frontline folks in that list that have not been vaccinated yet. There's nothing that every parent and every family out there wants more than to get their kids back into school, but we have to do it safely.

SEANA SMITH: Doctor, we last spoke to you about a month ago when we were talking about the current situation in Arizona at the time. You were telling us that it's still very scary there. The healthcare workers are exhausted. The resources were being used to full capacity. Has that situation improved at all in your area?

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: It has, it has. We have seen a decline in the number of COVID patients, either coming through the emergency department or in the ICU. We have seen that number drop, but not nearly enough as much as we'd like to just to see it. But we also are now seeing just a slight uptick, which is now about four or five days after the Super Bowl, thinking that possibly folks had parties and gatherings. And again, this is why we have to remain vigilant.

We have not seen enough downward numbers to constitute a solid trend. But we know that things are getting better. And I think a lot of that is attributed, obviously, to the fact that we continue to encourage people to wear masks, socially distance, whether they're vaccinated or not, just to continue implementing these public health guidelines.

And you know, I'll mention as a side note, there was a recent study out that showed that we have had more than a 90% drop in flu diagnoses here in Arizona, which is amazing. And that's really a great thing because that shows that these public health measures that are being implemented are truly effective.

And so, I encourage folks to make sure that we continue to practice those. We cannot afford to let up. We have to stay as vigilant as ever until we truly get to that point, which will probably be late in-- late summer or early fall, where we can actually say that everyone is vaccinated, and then proceed from there.

SEANA SMITH: Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, we really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us. We look forward to speaking with you again. Have a great weekend.