One of the doctors at the Medical Associates of Vicksburg is Dr. Daniel Edney, who specializes in internal medicine. He is also one of ten physicians serving on Mississippi’s COVID-19 coronavirus task force.
“We must flatten the curve to stem the tide of this virus,” Edney told the Vicksburg Daily News. Flattening the curve means to slow a virus’ spread so that fewer people need to seek treatment at any given time. It explains why implementing social distancing guidelines are so important. Many U.S. cities, including New Orleans, La., are issuing shelter-in-place orders to keep people from congregating.
“We must listen to the guidance of the Center for Disease Control and follow the recommendations of social distancing and limiting contact with potential carriers,” Edney said.
Hospitals generally operate at 80 to 90 percent capacity under normal circumstances, which means health-care facilities could quickly become overwhelmed if a big influx of patients need to be hospitalized. In New York State, which currently has the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., hospitals are already running out of supplies and ventilators.
“It is critically important that we make every effort to keep this out of our health-care facilities unless the patient is above the threshold for hospitalization,” Edney said, adding that patients will generally be directed to quarantine at home unless presenting with a fever of 102 degrees or above.
“We know the virus is in Vicksburg,” Edney said. “It’s just a matter of receiving an official confirmation.”
COVID-19 is highly infectious. Estimates are that every infected person will infect two to three more people if social distancing is not strictly observed.
“It’s time for people to take this seriously—no elective surgeries or unnecessary medical office visits. No dental appointments. Contact your health-care provider for guidance,” Edney said.
Like other physicians in Mississippi, Edney is using telemedicine video conferencing whenever possible to consult with his patients. For those who must come to the clinic, Medical Associates has established protocols to protect their patients and staff.
Edney stressed that people should not just show up at a clinic or emergency room. Every facility has procedures in place to stem the tide of the pandemic, and most will pre-screen patients by phone before setting an appointment.
The doctor added that he is closely monitoring the situation in South Korea. Health officials there put certain things in place quickly to prevent the spread of the virus, including setting up quick, no-cost drive-through testing clinics using tests that provide a fast turnaround. It also pulled doctors and nurses from its military forces to help civilian hospitals. Above all, the country instituted a policy of absolute transparency in getting information out to the public. They have probably made more progress than anyone in Asia, Edney said.
The anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine has shown some results in treating the virus, Edney mentioned. However, the evidence is “thin” and anecdotal, according to Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Regardless, Bayer AG, Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies have agreed to donate millions of hydroxychloroquine pills to the U.S. government for potential use with COVID-19 patients once the drug is approved for them.
“I don’t think this will be an apocalyptic event,” Edney said, although, with some countries completely opaque in their testing and reporting, the statistics could be much higher than we know.
“The vast majority will survive,” he said.
The public needs to pay attention and listen to professional opinions, Edney warned “We need the public to cooperate. More resources are arriving daily.”
Mississippi is in the early stages of setting up mobile testing stations, some of which will likely be manned with Mississippi National Guard health providers. Some form of mobile or drive-through testing will become available in Warren County for symptomatic patients. The state also has ventilators coming from the federal stockpile.
Edney encouraged people to continue to support local businesses by getting food-to-go and using drive-through and curbside pickup options. He also cautioned those over 65 and those with chronic medical conditions to stay at home and avoid crowds whenever possible.
“If we all work together and listen to trusted, sourced information we can survive this,” he said.