Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is using a phased-in approach to lifting stay-at-home orders which allows some businesses to re-open doors. Public health officials, however, are keeping a watchful eye. Opening too soon could be potentially dangerous with a new disease circulating and no vaccine to protect the public.
It’s a difficult balance. Elected officials are under a lot of pressure with so many people out of work to help the state return to a new sense of normalcy.
“While there is no question that we have collectively done a stellar job of following stay-at-home orders asked of us by the Governor and our mayors, we did what we were asked,” said local Infectious Disease Physician MarkAlain Dery. “We actually flattened the curve and we helped our healthcare workers and our healthcare system to not be overwhelmed with sick patients with COVID-19.”
COVID-19 has had a nasty grip on the Greater New Orleans area. With so many lives lost, medical professionals are hoping Phase One doesn’t unleash a second wave of illnesses. “So now that the ordinances will be loosened a bit, I want you to be aware of a few things,” urged Dery. “The first is that the virus has not gone away and will be with us until there is a vaccine. That may be a year or so.” People with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to this disease.
While Phase One will allow the public to move around a little bit more, we must do so vigilantly. “The virus is overwhelmingly transmitted by the respiratory route. This means that if someone close to you laughs, sneezes, coughs or even if they talk near you for more than a few minutes, there’s a risk that you can actually get the virus,” added Dery. “Remember, this virus can be transmitted even if you are asymptomatic and have no symptoms or, if you are pre-symptomatic which means that you will get the virus later. This is a time when a person is not having symptoms from the virus but can still transmit the virus to you.”
Some large cities across the globe are seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 clusters since re-opening which is forcing a second round of closures and stay-at-home orders. While staying home is very tedious for many, it is allowing public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to research and study just how easily this virus is spread.
“There was a man who went to eat in China that the CDC documented. He was pre-symptomatic, so it was before he had symptoms for COVID-19. He didn’t know that he had COVID-19 and he inadvertently infected nine other diners at a restaurant. One of the reasons was because there was an air conditioner at the restaurant that was at a ninety-degree angle from him and so the virus was able to spread to other people in the restaurant.”
Patience is key right now. Scientists are working around the clock to create and test a vaccine. Healthcare workers need to slow the spread so that our hospitals can give every patient admitted the best care possible. Remember, one of the lives saved could be your own.
“If you do decide to be outdoors, I ask you to do a few things,” said Dery. “Please wear a mask when you go outdoors and ask those around you to do the same. The mask that you wear protects others from you because you may be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. The mask that you wear keeps the potential virus in your mask protecting others around you. Let’s please stay home as much as possible and wear a mask when you’re out & about, and always wash your hands.”
You can ask Dr. Dery questions about COVID-19 or other health issues every day at four o’clock during his Facebook Live show or listen to his daily podcast. Go to the accesshealthla.org homepage and follow Access Health Louisiana on Facebook & Instagram.