KYW In Depth: What you need to know about coronavirus in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Dr. Harvey Rubin’s office is a cozy little room on the University of Pennsylvania campus, with probably enough space for four people to have a seat as long as someone doesn’t mind using the JFK rocker. When KYW’s Carol MacKenzie and Tom Rickert set up a couple of microphones on top of the neat piles of papers covering his desk, the next thing he did was offer up his travel-sized squeeze bottle of hand sanitizer.

“Who knows where you’ve been recently,” he joked.

Rubin is an infectious disease specialist, which means lately he’s been spending most of his time on the coronavirus outbreak — researching, studying, speaking with colleagues, and answering questions for curious podcasters, like, “What are the odds you or I are going to get coronavirus?”

“I think we should be prepared, not panicked,” Rubin says. “And I think the odds depend very much on what you’ve been doing for the past month, and what your level of exposure would be to patients who may have this particular virus.”

On the other side of the Schuylkill River, Dr. Steven Alles is coordinating the city of Philadelphia’s response to the virus.

As the director of disease control in the city’s Department of Public Health, Alles says the main job right now is detection and containment — to look for and find first cases in the area so the city is in a better position to control the spread.

“There is an element of unknown with this disease,” Alles says, referring to the illness caused by the coronavirus. “With COVID-19, we don’t really know in the coming weeks and months that are ahead, how long will this be with us? Will it go away when the warm weather comes and when summer’s here? Will it come back next winter? We just don’t have answers to all of that, so controlling it now is — we think is best.”

Alles says the city is ready to respond to an outbreak, and not just for COVID-19. The city stays ready for any possible epidemic or pandemic with regular drills and scenarios.

“Hospitals have robust preparedness plans in place to expand their ability to care for patients like this,” Alles says. He’s in communication with the school district about how it will handle a case of COVID-19. Those efforts mirror others in the city with local business and mass transit, in addition to joint emergency response planning between the 11 counties that make up Greater Philadelphia.

This week on KYW In Depth, Dr. Rubin and Dr. Alles answer some of the most pressing questions we’ve been hearing about the coronavirus and Philadelphia’s plans to deal with it. We’re also joined by Dr. David Weiner, Director of the Wistar Institute’s Vaccine and Immunology Center, for an update on the timeline for a COVID-19 vaccine.