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It’s imperative that we continue to be very vigilant and keep people out of the hospitals: Emergency Medicine Physician

Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, Emergency Medicine Physician in Arizona & Former Candidate for Congress in Arizona's 6th District joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the latest COVID-19 news.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: We're still watching the latest headlines coming through here day after day on the coronavirus front. Announced COVID fatalities top 2,700 yesterday, by far the deadliest day yet in the country from the disease. And that comes as hospitalizations continue to set records across the country. So let's start there for what we should be expecting in the months to come as we approach the holiday season. Joining us now is Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, emergency medicine physician in Arizona and a former candidate for Congress in Arizona's 6th district as well.

Dr. Tipirneni, it's good to be chatting with you again today. I mean, the numbers are pretty dire here when we talk about hospital staffs being stretched regardless of whatever community you want to focus in on here. What are your expectations in terms of battling this now and where we're at in this pandemic in the month of December?

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yeah, well good to be with you, Zack. I certainly wish we were talking about a more positive topic. But that being said, yes, we are in, these are dire numbers that we are seeing. You know, as you mentioned the national death number was a record. We've also seen a record number of deaths here in Arizona. As of this morning, the most recent number, we're almost up to 7,000. We had 82 just reported.

And look, we have a vaccine coming, and so hope is on its way. But until then it's really important that we all do what we can to continue to mitigate the spread because the numbers are going up. There's no end in sight. And even once the vaccine is out, we have to remember it will take several months before it makes its way through even first administration throughout our population. And obviously there's still a lot to learn about the immunity that it confers and how it allows us to start moving back through our communities safely.

So until then it's so important that we continue to practice these mitigation efforts. Just yesterday here in Arizona there were clinical leaders of all of our major hospital systems that wrote a letter to our governor asking to implement some new measures to be very clear about the situation we're in and that we are approaching hospital capacity. We will have to implement care crisis standards. And these are all worrisome times and it's important that we all continue to be very vigilant.

ZACK GUZMAN: And on that front, we've seen a number of state leaders adjust some of their decision making. When you compare it to where things were back in the spring, Governor Cuomo here in New York, for example, saying it's not, it's not about the positivity rate anymore. It's about the capacity in the hospitals. And that should be guiding the restrictions moving forward. What are you seeing on the ground there? It feels like we're having these uncomfortable conversations again about who actually should be getting surgery, who should be getting care. Can you give us a little more insight on the conversations that are happening in Arizona?

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, look you're right. You know, having capacity is one thing, but our goal really should be not to consume all that capacity. It should be to keep people out of the hospital, to keep them well. Just because we have beds doesn't mean that we want folks to take up the ICU. We certainly don't always have staffing. Right now, Arizona's Department of Health has requested an additional 500 nurses to come to Arizona to help us with the care. So just having a bed does not mean that we have the capacity.

And more importantly, it's really a critical issue that you bring up. We are putting elective procedures potentially on hold. It also, having these numbers in the hospital and in emergency departments, a lot of times it deters other folks who are truly having other kinds of emergencies from seeking the medical care that they need. Sometimes they're staying home far too long with illnesses that they have because they are ambivalent about going to the hospital with coronavirus being so prevalent.

So there are widespread implications of these numbers rising and rising. We don't want to implement the crisis standards of care, which is what I was referring to earlier, that the clinical leaders of all major hospital systems here in Arizona have told our governor that if we do not see a quick and urgent and decisive action, set of actions put into place, then we will have to implement those crises of care, which means we are talking about potentially making choices, right, of who gets that ICU bed, who gets the ventilator, who gets the extreme interventions to prolong their life.

That's something that no medical professional ever wants to have to make those kinds of choices. And we never want to see our hospitals go to that place. So it's imperative that we continue to be very vigilant and keep folks out of the hospital, keep them well. And these guidelines that have been proposed are very reasonable. You know, we're talking about limiting gatherings to less than 25 people, making sure that we have no group athletic events.

They're asking for a curfew as well, at nighttime, at 10:00 PM. Making sure there's no indoor dining, as well as things like wearing a mask in public, trying to stay home as much as possible, washing your hands, staying home if you're sick and so forth. We have to do everything we can to mitigate the spread. We are at a very critical point right now all across this nation.

ZACK GUZMAN: And, Doctor, I mean, when we look ahead to the vaccine rollout, just looking across the pond, the UK, obviously the first country here to approve Pfizer's vaccine to start getting that rolled out. When we've heard from Boris Johnson, he's labeling it as challenging to get it out to the public. And I think here in the US it'll be much of a similar story.

But when you look at of demand right now on health care staff, I guess silver lining, you'd expect it to improve once we get past Christmas moving forward the IHME models shows that deaths are expected to peak in January here. What are your expectations on maybe the stresses of getting the vaccine out and how it's going to need to be an effort beyond just hospital workers here but also I guess local pharmacists potentially also being called in here. What do you see playing out as we try to get this vaccine out to the public?

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yeah, I mean this is really one of the most massive, coordinated efforts that our country will ever undertake. You know, whether it's about the manufacturing of the vaccine, of the supplies, of the syringes, the needles, distribution, but then also as you're referencing, administration of these vaccines. And that takes, excuse me, that takes personnel, that takes real coordination of understanding which populations are greatest at risk. We have to, yes, vaccinate our first responders, our essential workers, health care workers.

But the administration of this and doing it in a very timely manner, this is a huge undertaking. It's going to require sort of all hands on deck approach. We need a strong supply chain. We need to make sure that we have a very comprehensive strategy that is fully outlined.

And that's why it's so important that we are as, you know, excuse me, clear on these instructions and this sort of roadmap as we can be. Because this is going to require all additional personnel. It's going to be very critical that we get folks vaccinated in a very efficient manner, and also keeping track of folks and making sure that we know who's been vaccinated, who is due for ultimately a second dose. And also monitoring the effects of this, because we have to remember this is a very new vaccine. This is still a novel virus we are still learning a lot about.

ZACK GUZMAN: And, Doctor, I want to get back to a comment you made earlier about the state calling for 500 additional nurses. Where are you going to get those nurses from? Are these within state? I mean, we heard some of these stories early on in the pandemic, but at that time the infections were largely limited to specific states. Now we're seeing an increase across the country. How confident are you that you have the staffing in place to be able to meet the demand?

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: That's a great question because we're not the only state, right, out there making requests for additional staff. And so yes there is sort of some level of competing with the needs of other states, which is all incredibly important as well. So this is not an easy ask. It is something that our Department of Health Services and our director of that department has asked for. And those are expected to be nurses that are not in Arizona already.

So it is a question of whether that staffing request can be fulfilled, how efficiently it can be fulfilled. And remember, this isn't just nurses in general. There are different areas of care, right? We need, there's critical care nurses. There might be nurses that we need more for other areas of the hospital because of the shortage and because of the sort of revamping and you sort of directing a lot of our current nurses, say, emergency department nurses and so forth, to work more on these critical patients.

So this is a challenge, absolutely, as you note. And we are, in the most crude terms I guess, in competition with other states. Everybody across this nation is looking for additional staffing and resources. This will not be an easy request to fill. And we will see how it pans out over the next several weeks.

ZACK GUZMAN: And hopefully it does improve, but we shall see. We'll be watching it closely. Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, I appreciate you taking the time to chat today.

DR. HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Thanks so much for having me, Zack. Take care.