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‘The most difficult phase of the epidemic is ahead of us’: doctor

Dr. Leo Nissola, a medical doctor as well as immunotherapy scientist, joins The Final Round to discuss all things coronavirus: from a second wave to the vaccine race as global cases surge about 40 million.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Welcome back to "The Final Round." The daily coronavirus case count continues to climb. The US now averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day. 10 states recently reporting over the last couple of days their highest single-day case count on record. And this, of course, comes as the global case count total tops more than 40 million.

So for more on this, we want to bring in Dr. Leo Nissola. He's a medical expert and also immunotherapy scientist. And Dr. Nissola, great to have you on the program. We talked about the number of cases continuing decline and the concerns, obviously, now about this resurgence and what it would mean for schools, what it means for restaurants, what it just means, really, for the greater public health at this point. What's your assessment just of where things stand right now?

LEO NISSOLA: Yeah, well, thank you for having me. Look, like every American, I'm excited about a COVID vaccine. And I'm ready for life to go back to normal. There are some important points for us to consider now as we move into the winter, and discussing potential vaccines and new treatments. And safety is one of them.

Right now, unfortunately, there isn't the miracle that we were told that was going to be in coronavirus-- it was going to disappear. It isn't disappearing. And what we are seeing is that although we have a great number of recovered cases, we do also see increase in the number of patients who are hospitalized.

There are over 35,000 patients in the United States currently hospitalized with COVID. And over 7,000 of them are in the ICU. So, as we move into the winter, things are not looking pretty.

ANDY SERWER: Doctor, let me ask you a question. And-- but first of all, you're an oncologist basically, right?

LEO NISSOLA: That's right.


LEO NISSOLA: I run clinical trials.

ANDY SERWER: Right. So I'm just curious what the most important number is. Because we see the rates, you know, the 50,000 to 70,000, the infection rate. Is that important? Is it the number of people hospitalized? Is it the number of deaths?

Because I think that the number of people infected, you know-- I think it becomes politicized a little bit, that, oh, some people focus on this-- these sets of numbers, and other people focus on those sets.

LEO NISSOLA: Yeah, I think numbers are important, but also, the scary part is that there are over 200,000 people that have died because of COVID in the United States. And that's the number that worries me the most.

Probably the most difficult phase of the epidemic is ahead of us. And I hate to think about politicizing science, but we do see very divergent opinions there. Solid, credible medical expert voices have been, you know, mentioning that we will get out of the pandemic if we do, actually, the common sense public health practices.

And those are more important focus points than just the statistical number. I don't think there is a need for anyone to become a vaccine expert and for non-doctors to understand how a clinical trial works.

I think what's important to know is that the virus is running unopposed. We are a few weeks behind Europe. And Europe is having a difficult time already. Unfortunately, what we're seeing is that the number of cases are dramatically increasing. And as we enter into the winter, we're going to be seeing more cases. And we are going to see more patients requiring hospitalization.

AKIKO FUJITA: So if the worst is still ahead, how should we be looking at actual testing in place? I mean, there's still a debate on that issue, whether everybody-- we should aim to have everybody tested, whether those who are asymptomatic should not have to be tested. I mean, how are you looking at that, when you see what could be described as this third peak that we're facing now?

LEO NISSOLA: Yeah, that's a great point. And I think we have-- you know, Dr. Fauci has been saying this. Scott Gottlieb has been saying this for a very long time. We [INAUDIBLE] widespread testing for everyone. If you are symptomatic, if you are asymptomatic, if you are feeling that you were exposed, you should get tested.

So testing should be something that folks at home should demand from their mayors and counties and states. The [INAUDIBLE] part is that understanding what that quarantine is and what isolation is.

The other day, we saw a tweet from someone famous that was infected with the COVID and saw a positive result saying that he was going to quarantine. And that's the wrong thing to do. You should quarantine before knowing your test result. You isolate when you test positive.

So I think the broader message here and the important point is, understand that we can get out of this health care crisis if we actually take the measures that we have been advocating for the [INAUDIBLE] months.