Dr. Rai: We have power to control coronavirus with masking, distancing

"Granted, it could be a bad fall and winter, but it's really in our hands."
Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 7:45 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says we're in for a tough fall and winter when influenza returns and we're still battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai says we can prove that wrong by wearing masks and practicing physical distancing. Dr. Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning to talk about the Dr. Redfield’s prediction, Wisconsin’s trend and a message of hope about a new vaccine.


“I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 is probably going to be one of the most difficult times that we’ve experienced in American public health.” - CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

"Honestly, I think the CDC by putting out that message is correct. But it should motivate us, because it really is in our control on where this virus heads over the next three months. Are we going to ramp up testing more aggressively in the state? We need to. Are we going to mask effectively throughout the state? We need to. Those are the tools we have to prove the CDC wrong in this sentiment. And I think we should. Granted, it could be a bad fall and winter, but it's really in our hands. That layered on top of influenza, it's going to be rough in the sense of two viruses at once. But we still have a lot of things we can do by maintaining our physical distance, by washing our hands, by wearing a mask, doing all the smart things to control this," says Dr. Rai.


“We need to follow it locally by wearing a mask. We know we’re not going to prevent ourselves from getting coronavirus. But what we do, is we mitigate the spread of it. That’s the point of controlling this virus: how do you mitigate the spread? You do it by physically distancing. Nobody wants to stay home anymore. We want to get back out and get the economy going. Best way to do that: wear a mask,” says Dr. Rai.


Starting July 20, customers will have to wear masks or face coverings at Walmart stores. Other major retailers have also announced masking policies. CLICK HERE for more information.

“You know when you think about it, I’ve never really known Walmart, Best Buy, Kroger to be the most socially conscious employers in the world. But they are the biggest money makers. They are retailers. And that goes to show you why a mask is important. It keeps the economy going. These stores have recognized to keep their retail services going, to keep their economic flow going, to keep the country’s economic flow going, we need to wear a mask. So this should be a lesson not only for retailers, but for businesses, for restaurants, for bars. If Walmart’s doing it, they’re not doing it out of the goodness of their heart. They’re doing it to keep their bottom line strong. So really, the whole purpose of opening up the state in May was about the economy. The whole purpose of wearing a mask should be about the economy. And Walmart is now proving that to the entire country,” says Dr. Rai.


“It’s super important not to look at this day-by-day. Unfortunately, even myself, we’re fixated on what’s today’s numbers. And for me, it’s literally by the hour. We really have to look at this in 14-day blocks. The 14-day block for Wisconsin is still going in the wrong direction.

Our percent of positivity--this graph is talking about the day-to-day positives. It’s not where we want to be focused. We want to look at, number one, the percent of positivity. The number of people positive versus how many tests we did that day. The last couple of days--really good news in Wisconsin.

Looking at the last 14 days.
Looking at the last 14 days.(Wisconsin DHS)

”If that trend holds for 12 more days, that’s awesome news. We want that percent of positivity to fall below three percent for the state, and then we know we’re doing really, really well. And we have a couple of tools in our tool box to do that, but looking at this on a day-by-day basis can be a little frustrating, because you’ll have good days and bad days. You’ll have the day that the test is reported versus the test is done. Unfortunately due to testing resources in the state and the country, that’s being stretched out a little. So we really have to look at this in 14-day increments,” says Dr. Rai.


The Green Bay Packers have announced that there will be no fans for training camp, Family Night, and preseason home games at Lambeau Field.

“The NFL has a lot of things to worry about right now. I think their number one priority is to create a bubble around those who actually generate revenue, which is the players. And they’re doing a really good job of working with the NFLPA in finding a solution towards that. And the second phase of that is how do you protect the players? In other words, how do they make sure the staff is doing the right thing? And then you get to the fans. So I think the Packers’ approach is awesome. Let’s start with the players, and start with what’s needed on the field and what’s needed in the building. Make sure that’s safe, see how that goes, before we re-introduce thousands of other factors--fans--into the equation. It’s frustrating. I love going to games. Even preseason, Family Night has been a tradition in my family for years. Those are things that we just have to adjust for this year to make sure we have a full season. So I think that’s a really good decision,” says Dr. Rai.


What should businesses do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

“I think the most appropriate response is to work with public health. To ask for an opinion, call your health care provider, call public health. They’ll probably call you and how to do that. You don’t need to shut down if you’ve done the right things--if you’ve physically distanced, if you’ve masked. Public health will really probably talk to you about symptom monitoring and other things. And it really depends on what kind of business you are. Are you a one-on-one business? Are you a one-on-30 business type of situation? Massive retail versus small business. How many employees are in a certain area. Those are all important questions to ask,” says Dr. Rai.


This month, thousands of people will take part in a study for a vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. CLICK HERE for more information on the vaccine.

“Probably the most exciting thing since March. It’s always good to talk about good news. That is really good news. It’s a small amount of people in the vaccine trial, but now it’s been approved for a very large trial. What we know about this vaccine: Number one, it’s easy to re-produce so it can be mass produced pretty quickly. Number two, the early results show that it works. Number three, it’s well tolerated by those who get it. You need two injections. That’s not fun. But if we can get this by end of winter, early spring, and then get everybody to be immunized, we could really see a good summer next year. So I’m very hopeful. Hopefully we’ll continue to see good news. Now they have to get to the next stage of trials, which is 30,000 people. Hopefully that shows the same results as the first two trials and we’ll be on our way this winter.”


Dr. Rai will continue to join us on Action 2 News This Morning on Tuesday and Thursday. We’ll also carry it on Facebook Live. Have a question for Dr. Rai? Email

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