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'The more people that have vaccines in arms the less this disease will spread': Doctor

Dr. Patrice Harris, eMed CEO & Former President of AMA joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss COVID-19 developments.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: The CDC out with new guidelines on Wednesday, recommending that Americans wear double masks now, two masks-- a cloth mask over a medical mask-- to slow the spread of COVID-19. This coming as we see the number of case counts go down nationally. Let's bring in Dr. Patrice Harris. She's eMed CEO and Former President of AMA.

Dr. Harris, it's good to talk to you today. Let me just get first your reaction to these guidelines we got from the CDC. It feels like things are really evolving as a result of these new variants that we have learned about over the last several weeks. The two masks itself, is that a significant development?

PATRICE HARRIS: Well, you know, for many of us I can tell you that I have been wearing two masks for a while. But here again, it is so critical to have the data to support recommendations. And so this new guideline from CDC, I think, will be more helpful. We already had plenty of data that mask-wearing was very helpful to prevent the spread. And now here is just additional information that we can go even further, and two masks are helpful.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. And we saw, you know, the difficulties and trouble in trying to get people to wear one mask. I hope that it's a little bit easier for people to wear two. But Dr. Harris, when we look at the vaccine rollout, obviously that's been the big story in trying to outpace the number of new cases in the US. Luckily, we've seen the number of cases continue to fall here.

When you look at the vaccine front, though, it's interesting to hear Dr. Fauci talking about moving to that next threshold, looking at the data to see when kids will start to get the vaccine. Now saying that we could see first-graders potentially getting cleared to get that by September, he says, presuming that we see trials go well. What's your take on maybe that next step and where we're at in the vaccine front?

PATRICE HARRIS: Well, that is welcome news. You know, as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I receive a lot of questions from parents as to when they might be able to get their children vaccinated. So we have been awaiting this data. And I was so glad to hear that from Dr. Fauci, because the key is getting vaccines in arms.

When we get to that critical mass, to herd immunity-- we don't know the exact percentage, but here's what we do know. The more people who have vaccines in arms, the less this disease will spread. The less we even have to worry about viral mutations. So certainly, that is welcome news.

However, note the date. We may not see that until the fall. And so that means that we need to continue to wear our mask.

And now, CDC is telling us that per the data, double-masking is important. We still and have always needed a robust, comprehensive testing strategy. So that's still in place. We still need to watch our distance.

And we still need to wash our hands. I have been fortunate enough to receive both of my doses of Moderna. Last Friday was my second dose. But I will still continue to wear my mask and abide by all the precautions that we know work.

AKIKO FUJITA: And doctor, you were talking about kids. There's been a lot of debate about whether in fact schools should reopen. President Biden had sort of made it pretty clear he wants that to be one of the priorities. We're expecting additional guidelines from the CDC on that front now. But what does the latest data suggest in terms of how safe it is to bring kids back to school? And what needs to be done in order to make this reopening as safe as possible?

PATRICE HARRIS: You know, those guidelines are going to be helpful, because we do need that national leadership on these issues. Now, to date, there have been several studies that said the risk of transmission at school is lower. But of course, as always, we have to get beneath the headlines.

Those studies show that the reason that transmission was lower was because there was appropriate mask-wearing. They were able to make sure that they were keeping children at appropriate distances from one another. They had improved air ventilation systems.

And so that means that schools need resources to make sure that we mitigate, as much as possible-- no such thing as zero risk. But it's about resources. But the data thus far show the risk was low. But of course, you had to make sure you had that level of mitigation.

This is welcome news. We need our children back to school. And by the way, I think there's universal agreement that children need to be in school. What we've not had is a debate-- or we've had a debate, but we've not had the resources necessary to do that.

And it's more than just getting kids back to school. It's keeping them there. And that does mean you need testing and tracing and medication, and bottom line, resources.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, almost worse to have a bunch of families go through this start/stop process out there with sending their kids back and forth and having to deal with the concerns around that. But Dr. Patrice Harris, eMed CEO and Former President of AMA, appreciate you stopping by to chat with us today. Thanks again.