The White House Coronavirus Task Force reports that they have some encouraging news as it relates to a malaria drug that can possibly be used in treating patients who test positive for coronavirus. Trial work continues and hopefully something fruitful comes from it in the very near future. To better understand this development and answer listener questions about the spread of coronavirus, Newell invited LSU Health Care Services CEO Dr. Rebekah Gee onto the program Thursday afternoon.
“You heard the news today,” Newell began. “Where do we go from here? What can we expect to happen over the next ten to fifteen days?”“We know now that we have widespread COVID-19 in the New Orleans region,” Gee said. “We just had Mardi Gras, lots of opportunities for people to interact with each other there, and not only people from New Orleans but around the world. What we’re starting to see is the beginning of those case upticks, and in the next several weeks we will see the worst of it and hope that after that it goes down. All these measures we put into place, like social distancing and closing schools, those were necessary and extremely important. One thing that gives us hope is what’s happening in other countries; China had no new cases today, South Korea, Singapore… All of those are roadmaps for us to understand how we fight this virus and we need to learn those lessons and implement those strategies.”“This pandemic has revealed a lot of frailties in the healthcare delivery system,” Newell continued. “Moving forward, do you think it needs to take on more of a national presence, where you don't have this fragmentation with so many different approaches being taken? The differential in timing and so many other issues seem to have really worked to our detriment.”“What this has exposed is that we have not invested the money and the people that we should have into public health,” Gee answered. “The cuts that happened under the Jindal administration, for example, there were 500 nurses fired, and we could surely use those nurses today. The silver lining is that we will better appreciate the role of public health professionals and scientists, and we need to coordinate their efforts and make those investments, certainly at the national level. We need to do a better job at the national level with tracking, deploying personal protective equipment and better deploy our assets. We will need to do more central planning similar to what they’ve done in Singapore and China. That’s not typical of the US, we do have the US Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control. We have a history in Louisiana of working with our federal partners when there’s a disaster, and those efforts need to continue and be bolstered by the private sector.”“Coming back to the community level, we deal with the influenza almost every year, and it has a significant impact in terms of both illness and deaths,” Newell said. “We have both flu and coronavirus happening at the same time now. As a treating physician, what advice can you give to patients as they try to self-assess when they need to pull the trigger and go to the hospital? Some of the symptoms are the same, right?”