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Treat variants as if they're dangerous: Doctor on how to beat the pandemic

The Monsoon Diaries Founder & CEO, Clinical Assistant Professor and Attending Physician in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Calvin Sun, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how coronavirus variants have impacted the COVID-19 vaccinations as cases continue to climb.

Video Transcript

- Let's bring into the stream Dr. Calvin Sun, the Monsoon Diaries founder and CEO, also a Clinical Assistant Professor and Attending Physician in Emergency Medicine at the majority of the emergency rooms and hospital systems here in New York City. It's good to see you again, Dr. Sun.

CALVIN SUN: Good to be back. Thank you.

- I want to ask you a question, because I think a lot of us are concerned about these variants and what is the difference? They're more contagious, but are they any more lethal?

CALVIN SUN: We know enough that the UK variant-- for every 10 people that die from the original COVID, 13 will die from the variant. And this is announced by Boris Johnson, one on the more conservative side of believing in COVID. So if he's saying it's more of a danger, I like to err on the side of caution, and at least act as if it's more dangerous, because that's the only way we can control this.

It's a race against time, a cat and mouse game against time, when we're trying to develop enough vaccines to vaccinate the entire population so that more variants aren't created. You just can't vaccinate just a small part, because a variant can mutate more to become more lethal and more contagious. And we would have to start all over again with new vaccines just to beat it. So you just can't vaccinate just one part of the population.

- Doctor Sun, I'm curious to get your perspective on the vaccine rollout in New York City, and whether or not you think it's improved since the last time we spoke.

CALVIN SUN: I think it's, again, a cat and mouse game against time. There's increased interest and then the supply ran out. And I like to reframe every struggle as something positive, where now it's like a Supreme brand, where because the supply has run out, more people want it, even the ones who weren't that interested and now wants to be part of this exclusive club that I've been very grateful to be part of since December 26 when I got my first shot. And it's generally much more of a demand, and more than I've seen. So once the supply has come in, which is still a problem, I'm looking forward to satisfying that demand.

- Is it true that people-- because it's different in every state, but for instance, if you're a smoker that you might jump ahead in line than other people? What's the rationale behind that? If it's not true, we can move on.

CALVIN SUN: It depends state by state, like the ventilator allocation guidelines, when you run out of ventilators. That's different state by state. Some state does a lottery, and some state does based on certain ethic principles that states have spent months to years debating over. So when it comes to smokers, it's the same idea as vaccinating the elderly and the older population, the most vulnerable.

Obviously smoking, for some people, is a choice. And some ethics would decide that smoking is something that people can't get out of, and it's very difficult for them, so we might as well protect them. Because if they die, and if they get sick because they're more likely to get sick from COVID-19, hospital systems would get overwhelmed.

And therefore, it's better to vaccinate them and protect them so that we won't get so many sick smokers coming in with COVID-19 in our hospital systems, and then causing the hospital system to collapse. That is the ethics behind it. But they spent months to years debating on this, whether they should be "ahead" of the people, like firefighters, and teachers, and whatnot who are a little younger, who may not be as healthwise at risk, and at risk of collapsing the hospital system if they get COVID-19.

- Doctor, the CDC is looking into whether or not they should recommend double masking. Do you think double masking makes sense, especially from what we've heard from these variants being more contagious?

CALVIN SUN: Back in March 2020, double masking was a privilege. It was a luxury. And when I was spending 20 minutes looking for even a single 95, and then when people started donating-- my friends and family donating-- N95 masks to me, the best way we could prolong the lifespan of an N95 masks, which is supposed to be switched between patients-- we had to wear them for days back in March 2020-- was to put another surgical mask over my N95.

That is my default right now with an increased variants. Even though I'm fully vaccinated, more than five weeks out from my second dose, my default is N95 with a surgical mask over it. I'm reserving my P100 mask, the Darth Vader mask for intubations and high-risk procedures with people with COVID-19. But still none of this-- none of this-- should be an issue, because we should be having PAPRs.

This double masking, this P100, this conversation-- it's irrelevant, because the standard of care should be Positive Air Purifying Respirators, those astronauts spacesuits. And I can't believe we're still talking about chain mail in 21st century warfare.

- Just want to let you know, Dr. Sun, Emperor Palpatine is giving a thumbs-up on the double mask and the Star Wars reference. All the best to you. And thank you for joining us, Dr. Calvin Sun.