Dr. Rai talks impacts of masking on cold and flu season

He talked about cold and flu season, schools and virtual learning, and the proper way to put on a mask.
Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 8:01 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Masking and physical distancing could help us when it comes to cold and flu season, according to Prevea President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai.

Dr. Rai joined us Thursday on Action 2 News This Morning. He talked about cold and flu season, schools and virtual learning, and the proper way to put on a mask.

Dr. Rai joins us Tuesdays and Thursdays on Action 2 News This Morning. Have a question for the doctor? Email


“Likely we’re not going to eliminate any virus out there, but definitely we have pretty good evidence, if you looked at March and April, when we saw a pretty-much complete shut down of influenza. We’re used to having [flu] patients in the hospital all the way into early May. All of a sudden it was gone. That’s because we physically distanced, stayed safe at home. We had great hand washing and mask wearing. Those simple things that are going to help control COVID hopefully will help control other viruses. The common cold is not going to go away. But we should see less of it if everybody’s doing the right thing. When it comes to influenza, we really want a very easy, or low influenza season this year. Masking, washing hands, physically distancing will help with all that. And getting your flu shot.


“We’ve had a variety of different drugs. It’s important to remember we’re learning every day about COVID-19. In certain circumstances we’ve tried medications that haven’t worked and actually caused harm. We have to be very careful. The one drug that I think people use the most, and what we use the most, especially when somebody is going into the ICU, is remdesivir. And we’ve shown good results with that. It’s really reducing that hospital stay. And people are actually leaving the hospital with a little better function if they’ve been on it. We don’t have anything new outside of remdesivir that we’re using. There’s a lot of drugs in trial right now. And we’ve also shown some drugs that don’t work and have been harmful at the same time.


“The primary mechanism of spread we have right now is through the air. So through respiratory droplets, what’s coming out of your nose and mouth.

“As far as symptoms go, the most common ones, the fever, loss of taste and smell, more importantly the cough, shortness of breath, those are the most common ones. If you go to the CDC website and look up COVID symptoms, they have a list of about 11 symptoms there. And there’s some there that you might not think about, such as diarrhea or headache, which are actually true symptoms of COVID-19. What we learn about COVID more and more is that it affects more than the respiratory systems. But the most common ones, again, are the respiratory ones, the fever, the cough, the shortness of breath.”


“It’s very tough. There’s two components. Number one, it’s having enough people to do contact tracing. Brown County Public Health and the other public health agencies around us have gotten help from the state in contact tracing. So it’s becoming a lot more rapid. But the biggest barriers that we find when we’re helping out with contact tracing is people giving an adequate and correct phone number, and actually being truthful. There are a lot of people, unfortunately, that haven’t been all that truthful. If they’ve been in a social situation where they know that there’s spread, or an employer situation where they’re worried about their job, they haven’t been forthcoming about that. And that’s really hard when you’re trying to control the virus. So the most important thing about contact tracing is answer your phone, and answer those questions correctly and honestly.”


“Number one, flying from state-to-state, there’s no restrictions in the state of Wisconsin for people coming in and out of the state. No mandatory quarantine. There are in some states, so you should actually look to where you’re going. But right now, somebody coming from another state to Wisconsin there’s no mandatory quarantine. But we should also be thinking about are they going to be staying in your home? It’s somebody that you don’t live with regularly. It does put you at risk, does put them at risk, because there’s exposure on both sides. The best type of situation there is to physically distance and think about different living situations when people visit right now.”


“Number one, you have to have a vaccine that works. So if the vaccine is working, the virus should not be able to replicate in your body. So if it’s not replicating inside your body, you should not be able to transmit it and you shouldn’t even test positive for it.”


“Right now, because we know there’s a certain timeline for you to turn positive with your symptoms, that if you’re still symptomatic and your COVID-19 is negative, it’s important to follow up with your physician and make sure there’s no other cause for your symptoms, and make sure they go away before you enter into public, before you go back to work, before you go back to school. So yes, you should continue to isolate, but definitely follow up with your physician if you still have symptoms.”


Appleton’s school board voted to start the year with virtual learning.

“I have to respect every single decision made. And they’re not easy decisions. And like we’ve said before, and I think we need to emphasize, every school district has a different situation. They have different resources, they have different abilities to distance versus not. And I think what the school board did is look at what they’re able to do to keep not only their students safe, but their teachers safe, and realized for them to really follow the rules, given the level of spread right now, that they couldn’t adequately mitigate within their schools. This gives them to time to work on that and start in a safe manner. And you can’t fault them for that.

“I don’t think it’s a solid argument that you have to start virtual, but I think it’s an argument that you better have a virtual option ready. Because what’s happening in Georgia is going to happen in Wisconsin. It may happen in Brown County. All it takes for a couple students to be positive and you have significant quarantines. Say you have three-to-four teachers that went home and their spouses were positive and the teachers were asymptomatic, they’re still quarantined for 14 days or maybe longer, depending on their home situation and their ability to isolate the positive person. That could lead to virtual for half the school or part of the school. So having a virtual option is important. It’s not as important as saying you have to start virtual or you have to start in person. That really depends on the school’s resources. But what’s happening in Georgia is going to happen in Wisconsin. And it may happen here.”


“We probably haven’t seen the best of us in this. We have seen some of the best of us when we stayed safe at home and people were taking care of each other. Now, unfortunately, a lot of the discussions have become political, and that creates more anxiety for our children. Right now, they’re watching COVID-19 pretty much constantly on the news, including right now if they’re up. And they see it over and over. That in itself is anxiety-provoking. But then when adults continue to argue and continue to publicly debate, maybe not in the best manner on the issue, that just adds to the anxiety of the children. And we’re not doing them any favors with our current behavior.”


“It’s angling down right now, which is great, we just want it to keep doing that. Statistically significant. We should always celebrate when we have a low percent of positivity. Number one, it means less people are becoming positive, which is a good sign. It also means our testing infrastructure is continuing to ramp up. Those are two things that are demonstrated by that low percent positivity. Now we just have to keep it below five percent. We’re starting to see some of the effects of some of the mandates. It’s two weeks into it, we’ll have to see if masking is going to continue on bringing that down. It really depends on masking compliance to bring that number down, as well as physical distancing and more importantly, getting tested if your having symptoms, and staying home. Those things are all seeming to work right now.”


A study found that wearing a neck gaiter is “worse than nothing” when it comes to masking.

“It’s a very small study, so I don’t think we should read too much into it. But once again, we should make sure that respiratory droplets can’t escape whatever we’re trying to secure. So one that secures the nose and secures the chin from respiratory droplets. Neck gaiters, in some cases, don’t always do that. Respiratory droplets can leave. This study says it could leave even more because of the cloth breaking apart the droplets and then not having that secure area around the chin. So the best mask to wear is one that covers the nose and chin securely.”

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