Dr. Rai: Coronavirus outpacing our testing ability

As of July 8, Wisconsin's percent of positive cases was hovering near six percent.
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 7:56 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - More people need to be tested for coronavirus to help bring the percent of positive cases down, according to Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai.

As of July 8, Wisconsin's percent of positive cases was hovering near six percent.

Dr. Rai joined us on Action 2 News to talk about the importance of testing, masking and how things are looking for back to school.


"Of course we're going to get more positive tests because we're testing more. We shouldn't be fixated on the number every day. And I think a lot of people do get fixated on it. Really, the numbers we should be looking at is the percent of positives versus the total number of people tested. And looking at that, say over a two week time period, the life cycle of the virus as we know it from an incubation time period. So if you think about that, the percent positive, if that rate is increasing, which it is unfortunately in the state of Wisconsin, over a two week time period, which it is in Brown County in the State of Wisconsin, and the amount of testing you're doing is increasing, but not increasing at that same rate, it actually means you're not testing enough," says Dr. Rai.

"A friend in Ohio actually had a quote on this that the virus is outpacing our testing ability. So it's racing ahead of our ability to test. The only way to bend that in the opposite direction is actually to test more. In other words, find more people that are positive, isolate them and control the virus. We have very few tools in our tool box when it comes to coronavirus. But the most prominent one we have is testing. The ability to test, trace and isolate a person. So if anything, we need to ramp up our volume of testing so we can be ready to face the future of the virus in the next year.

"I think people need to understand that if you're getting tested because you're symptomatic, don't get tested on your way to work. Get tested and go home. You need to isolate until your result is back. If you have symptoms, you should not be exposing anybody until you know the answer of your test. I've seen this in a lot of people that are turning positive. They were symptomatic, they got tested, they went to work and figured they would just wait for their results. Understand that you are likely infecting other people. So once you're tested, sit home until you get your results. It's anywhere from 24-hours-to-72-hours. And you will get a result and you will know if you can go back to work or you need to stay home."


"There's three different tests out there right now. The one that we've always talked about--the nasal swab--is really looking for genetic material. There's the antibody test. And now you have that rapid antigen test coming out. The most reliable--and it's not perfect--is that nasal swab, the genetic test, the PCR test. It still has a false negative rate. Sometimes up to five percent false negative. It doesn't have a false positive rate very much so it's really about missing that case. It's 95 percent reliable. And nothing's perfect. And that's, I guess, the closest thing we have to a gold standard right now."


“Every day they’re booking up. It sometimes takes an extra day for you to get tested. So much so that we’re opening up another site here in Brown County. Looking at opening up another one in Sheboygan, and more on the west side of the state. Which, with the numbers going in the numbers they are in the state of Wisconsin and in the counties that we work in, when we see that percent positive rate continue to increase despite us testing more, it means we need to be testing even more to bring that number down to get people isolated that are positive so we can keep businesses going, get schools going. That’s our goal,” says Dr. Rai.

"Right now the state is paying for that testing. So yes, you will not be charged for that. We will ask you your symptoms if you register for a test, or if you've been exposed. So if you've been exposed, you don't have symptoms, we still want you to be tested. And you can be tested for that."


The Wisconsin State Republican Convention is Friday and Saturday in Green Bay. Organizers say they’ve implemented safety procedures for social distancing inside the KI Convention Center. Masks are available, but not required.

"It's obviously a nervous situation when you have known community spread like we do in Brown County and then putting people in an enclosed situation. I'm really glad that they're taking all the safety precautions they can. Physically distancing is really the first step. We would hope that everybody would take the opportunity to wear a mask. That would be ideal. And hopefully people will do that and the risk will be mitigated. We've seen situations where we've had what we call a 'superspreader event' where it only takes a couple people in a room. When this first started off we saw that in Boston when there wasn't a whole lot of community spread, and 75 people in a room all got infected very quickly. So we hope that people have learned from that, are doing all the right steps to mitigate, and we won't see the spread. But it is concerning. And it will be concerning whether it's a Republican National Convention or a local convention or a concert--you know all those types of situations we just have to be careful," says Dr. Rai.

"If we can mandate it [masking], if everybody would agree to do it--that social contract of keeping everybody safe--yes, we would love everybody to mask. We don't have an ordinance yet on that, and hopefully we will, which will definitely encourage people in those types of situations where masking is appropriate--and in this situation because it is indoors and it will be difficult to physically distance all the time--masking is very appropriate."


"My feeling is, I think sometimes it gets misinterpreted when we talk about a mask mandate that you're going to be wearing a mask all the time. It's masking when it's appropriate. When is it appropriate? When you're indoors. When you're in a situation in which you can't physically distance, which is a lot of indoor situations, put a mask on. If employers are mandated to do it, they'll stay in business a lot more. You think about one employee spreading it to 10 others, that wouldn't have happened if they were masked. Those employees would be able to work. If they're not wearing a mask and you have an infected employee, public health likely will recommend quarantining a good majority of your employees for 14 days. And that's not good for business. So I really do hope people understand this as a mandate or an ordinance or whatever word you want to use, it's when it's appropriate and it's good for business to do it."


“Unfortunately we get so fixated on hospitalizations and mortality--people dying--which we should. But we forget about the long-term morbidity of being infected, which we’re finding out a lot about right now. Unfortunately, we’re finding out things that are bad. Such as inflammation of the heart muscle. You may consider the coronavirus a really bad cold, a really bad, ‘I had bad lung problems, I’m better now.’ But the long-term effects we’re finding, the long-term effects on your nervous system, on your lungs, on your heart, those are things that we’re really concerned about. And when you get complacent, when you treat this just like a simple virus, you forget it’s a new virus. We’re learning something every day. And the things we’re learning that you should be careful, you don’t want to catch this, because of some of the long-term effects we’re seeing.”


“I think it’s important to understand guidelines are just that--they’re guidelines. Every school district is going to have to make decisions based on what’s going on in their area. In other words, what’s going on in Brown County it’s very different than what’s going on in New York City. Actually, New York City is a little safer right now than Brown County given the total coronavirus numbers. They need to be able to be flexible. The school districts are going to do their best. We all want children back in school. And we all want safety. You have to understand it’s beyond the safety of the child. It’s also safety of the staff, the janitorial staff, the teachers, lunch people. I think it’s really important that the guidelines are just that. We need to be able to mitigate the spread. I like what people are talking about right now. Some of those mitigation efforts are regardless of where you are. So wear a mask, especially for staff, and encourage all students to wear one. We need to make sure our kids get use to it now. Because that will mitigate spread. That’s the whole point of that. Physically distance. Create cleaning schedules that make sense. Even schedules for students that make sense. Number one, let parents go to work and make sure kids are protected in a safe environment, and also that they can learn well,” says Dr. Rai


A viewer asked if there’s risk of spread when people stand in line to get their temperatures checked.

“Nothing is perfect. We know that. We want to try to mitigate risk. The most important thing they’re doing in that viewer question is that they’re wearing a mask when they’re going up to the kiosk. So it should reduce--it won’t completely eliminate--but it should reduce most of that spread of the virus. As long as you’re spacing out six feet and you’re giving it some time before the next person appracohes the kiosk, those are mitigation techniques. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. And more importantly, it’s good that they’re checking the temperature. That’s really important to screen people out.”

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