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Dr. Rai: Testing remains our Achilles heel

“We need to continue to ramp this up."
Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 9:52 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The state and country need to do more coronavirus testing. That’s the message from Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai on Action 2 News This Morning.

“We need to continue to ramp this up. We cannot take our foot off the gas when it comes to testing. A million is just not enough,” says Dr. Rai.

Dr. Rai also discussed topics about Back 2 School, what happens when you recover, and how to best clean your home, school or business.

TESTING

“Really when you look at it, it took us almost six months to get to a million tested. That’s still less than 20 percent of our population. So yes, it’s a really high number, but it’s, I don’t think, anything we should celebrate. Actually, we should be a little disappointed that we’re not at two million or three million. Testing has been this state’s and this country’s Achilles heel when it comes to being able to control COVID-19. So I would hope that number escalates and it takes us two months to get to two million and one month to get to three million, because that’s what’s going to be necessary. If you looked at the state’s percent positivity over the last two days, it’s started to trend down. We also had a really high number of tests. That goes to show you that testing a lot of people allows us to bring that positivity down, identify people, quarantine them, isolate them and quarantine those that have been around them, so we can bring that percent positivity steadily down like we did in the past. Which means our testing capabilities. A million’s a great number, it’s just not good enough.”

“It’s an entire supply chain, so it’s just not the supplies, it’s the labor, it’s the places to test people, it’s the labs and their through-put. All of it. There’s a huge chain of things that happen from the time that you ask for a test from that nasal swab to the time the result is back. A lot of technology’s involved, but a lot of equipment is involved, a lot of personal protective equipment. We need to continue to ramp this up. We cannot take our foot off the gas when it comes to testing. A million is just not enough.”

RECOVERY

“It’s important to understand with COVID-19 we learn everyday so it’s important to note that what I say today may change and it actually has changed. If you had asked me that question a few weeks ago I would have given you a different answer. So if you’ve recovered from COVID-19 we do ask you to take the normal precautions we’re asking everyone to take. The likelihood of you transmitting the virus after a period of 14-to-21 days is a lot less, but we have no proof that you can’t. So we understand that the likelihood is not there, but there’s no proof absolute so we ask that you still physically distance, still wear a mask, but understand that the likelihood of you transmitting to those that you live with is extremely low.”

NEW TEST VS. QUARANTINE

“We don’t recommend that you have to quarantine after a period of 14 days, but if your employer chooses to do that, they’re just being extra safe, which we can never fault them for, but you can relate this to somebody who’s been exposed to COVID-19. So what the employer is worried about in travel is that you could have possibly been exposed to somebody very close to you that has COVID-19, so you can kind of take the normal exposure rules with the CDC, there’s about five or six categories of exposure on how long you should quarantine and why should you quarantine for 14 days. It’s because when the virus is replicating it can be positive for anywhere from two-to-14 days after your exposure. So say you pick day four to get tested. If that’s negative it really doesn’t mean much. You’d almost have to get tested every day for 14 days and we don’t recommend that. So anytime that you’re told to quarantine, whether it’s by public health, CDC guidelines or an employer trying to be cautious, that 14-day timeline means because you can be positive anywhere from two-to-14 days going forward.”

CAN YOU GET IT AGAIN?

“What we’ve been told by the CDC for right now is probably, not absolute, for about 90-days someone would not need to be retested for COVID-19 because the likelihood of reinfection in 90 days is extremely low, especially if you’re an immune competent person. In other words, you don’t have any other major risk factors, such as you’re on chemotherapy or anything like that. So about 90 days. April, you can go forward 90 days and not think if you had symptoms you would need to be tested again.

“As far as antibodies, we think they last about 90 days, in some cases longer. But it’s important to note that that’s not the only sign of immunity. So just because antibodies aren’t there, there are other cells in your body. T-cells that are produced that also confirm immunity. Those are not as easily tested for as the IGG antibodies that we’ve talked about. If you’d like to understand about giving blood, you can go to the Red Cross and they will test you.”

CLEANING AND SANITIZING IN WORK AND SCHOOL

“So really, you want to make sure you’re cleaning all those high-touch surfaces, and a lot of them we forget. People will go into a bathroom and they will clean the toilet. Obviously, that’s an area of concern, the handle of the toilet, but did you actually clean the handle of the toilet going in on both sides? You know, everybody cleans the sink and the handles on the sink, but did you clean the door handle going in and out of the bathroom? Those are the high contact areas that get missed a lot. It’s important to remember, catching COVID-19 off a surface is not as likely as it is from the air, but it’s still important to wash your hands and clean things regularly. How often? Technically after every use, but I know in a school, that’s not all that practical, but going in there and catching those high touch surfaces a few times a day or as many times as you can will help.”

BUSINESS

Local leaders, including Camera Corner CEO Rick Chernick, are calling for employers to be flexible with their workers as school starts up again. They spoke at a press conference Wednesday in Green Bay.

“Rick was trying to encourage all of us as employers, like himself, to be creative. Look at what hours we are even open. You know, maybe we need to flex that and not be open during school and open after. We’re looking at that for clinics as well. He talked about making sure that those that get to work virtually have flexibility throughout their day to also help with their children, making sure they’re logging in and making sure they’re getting their virtual education. And he also talked about for those that have to come into work, maybe you have a classroom or a conference room that can be converted into a safe classroom. In other words, physically distance. You know, where a child can come in while your parent is working and actually attend school and they looked at how they can virtually bring educators into Camera Corner, and he encouraged the rest of the businesses to look at that. So great suggestions from Rick and I really appreciated that.”

“My role yesterday was really to talk about what we’ve been advising superintendents on as health care systems, really around making sure that parents and children understand screening procedures, they understand symptomology with COVID-19 and when to stay home. They understood when they need to get tested and how to get tested. So that’s really what I talked about is all the education we’ve given the superintendents and we’ve been meeting with them on a weekly basis and just kind of talk through that a little bit.”

TEACHER AND STUDENT POSITIVE TESTS

“Really, public health is the one who’s going to have the final say on this and get involved, but if you’re looking at CDC guidelines, it really depends on how much contact somebody’s had--and it’s cumulative--in a day. So if they were less than six feet away from each other for more than 15 minutes in a day, which a lot of times is going to happen with the teacher, they can do all they can with plexiglass and distancing, but it’s definitely not a perfect situation when you’re trying to educate, especially a young child. You could wind up quarantining that entire classroom or an entire hallway. It’s really going to depend on what public health does from a contact tracing standpoint. We’ve seen examples of this already where a school in Indiana opened up for one day, had a positive, had significant exposure and had to close the entire school down. That’s going to be public health’s call on how they look at the risks of what was involved with that positive, but parents should be prepared. Just because school starts on one day, it may not be open the next day. And it may be closed for two weeks. And that’s a cycle that may continue to happen as long as we have the virus so prominent in our community.”

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