Dr. Rai talks Labor Day, COVID-19 vaccine preps and testing on campus

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 7:40 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Small gatherings with social distancing and masking. That’s what Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai recommends for Labor Day weekend events.

Dr. Rai joined us Thursday on Action 2 News This Morning. He also talked about Wisconsin’s COVID-19 trend, testing on college campuses and getting ready for a vaccine.

Dr. Rai joins is now joining us on Thursdays. Have a question? Email news@wbay.com

LABOR DAY WEEKEND

”If you want to celebrate and get together, which you should do, find a way to do it through physical separation. Small groups. Those large group settings just allow the virus to be transmitted faster and faster and faster. This virus needs a home. Humans are its home. If we can reduce that spread, the virus becomes less of an issue for all of us. So a situation like this weekend, we want to continue to be smart. Spread that gathering out. Keep it small. Wear face coverings if you can. And continue to understand that if you have any kind of symptom, fevers; chills; cough; sore throat; shortness of breath; headaches; whatever it may be, that’s a great reason to stay home and not go out in public.

WISCONSIN TREND

“So if you look at the 14-day trend that’s published on the DHS website of the percent positivity--that’s what we have always been following since the Badger Bounce Back days--it’s finally trending back down again. It’s not a statistically significant trend down, but I think it’s important to celebrate good news. And it’s trending down nicely. Hopefully it will continue to maintain and get below that five percent level and then maintain that for another 14 days. But right now, for the last two weeks, we now have a negative trend.”

COLLEGE OUTBREAKS AND TESTING

“We’re really somewhat lucky in a sense that our UW schools are starting after some of the schools in the country have. And we’ve seen some mistakes being made, maybe not the right processes. And hopefully our students, our young adults, are learning from what they’re seeing and understanding what they need to do to make sure they can get the education they’re paying for and that they want. College is a voluntary choice and hopefully they’re taking it seriously. And they’re paying a lot of money to be there.

“Locally--UW Oshkosh and UW Green Bay--there’s a testing protocol for those who are living on campus and others, where there’s a constant screening. The machine is pretty similar to the one we’re using. It’s an antigen machine, it’s a quick, rapid test. They’re testing a multitude of people every two weeks to make sure that if we happen to find a positive, we can use that opportunity to do contact tracing and isolation. Not take them out of their educational opportunities, make sure they still get that, but isolate them away from everybody else and try to stop the spread. It’s an interesting concept. We’re assisting in that testing. I really do hope we’ll start to see the results of that here the next two, four, six, eight weeks, and hopefully mitigate what’s happening at other schools and make sure it doesn’t happen in Oshkosh and Green Bay.”

VACCINE

The CDC has advised states to be ready by November 1 to distribute a vaccine.

“What the CDC is really asking us to do is start making sure we have the infrastructure ready to vaccinate large populations. Luckily we do, because of the influenza vaccine, and we have experience in that. But making sure we have our protocols, who gets vaccinated first. Identifying our at-risk personnel, identifying our at-risk patients, so we know how to reach out to them. As far as the vaccine truly being ready by November 1 or November 30, we need to see where those trials are at. From what I understand, two of the largest trials are still enrolling patients. And once you enroll a patient, you have to make sure they get their first vaccination. And these have been a two-vaccination type of trial. So you have to wait a month for a second shot. And then you want to wait a good amount of time to make sure it works and doesn’t have side effects. So if you look at today being the early part of September, that would be really early to be able to publish by the first week of November. It may happen at some point in November. It’s hard to predict that date. We want it to be safe. We want to make sure it works. And we want to make sure that’s it’s easy to give and we can educate people. That’s a pretty tight timeline. If it happens to happen in that timeline and we see the research and it works, obviously we’ll give the vaccine. But it’s hard to imagine that timeline being met by November 1.”

IS COVID-19 SPREAD THROUGH PERSPIRATION?

“From what we know right now from the coronavirus, or SARS-CoV2, is really transmitted through your nasal and mouth secretions. So sweat, in particular, doesn’t have the virus in it in a replicable format. In other words, it’s not infectious from sweat. So it’s important to obviously clean the environment. We’ve been asked this question a lot about gym floors. Clean them like you normally would, but no extra precautions need to be taken. The mask is really the one thing you need to wear. Nothing more needs to be worried about.”

STORING MASKS DURING RECESS

“I think probably the best thing you can do is find something to seal it in. A plastic bag, some kind of tote box, whatever works that doesn’t have other things with it. You probably don’t want to put it right back in with your lunch bag. Teaching your child how to fold it properly so the inside is protected. Probably one of the most important things that parents can do is label the mask. I think we all have that great fear of sending our child to school with a Superman mask and coming back with a Batman one. So I think it’s really important to label them and teach them how to keep it secure. And then change it every day. Not wearing the same one every day. If it’s soiled or wet, making sure they take it off and but on a new one. Always having a back up is important as well. "

WHEN TO QUARANTINE

“This question comes up a lot: when am I supposed to quarantine? There’s five different situations that create that. Probably the most common is how long have you been with somebody and how close were you? If you spent more than 15 minutes with somebody in a day--and that’s cumulative so it can be three five minute periods and you were less than six feet apart--you are a close exposure. You need to quarantine. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what your health status is. The other four categories: if you hugged or kissed somebody, doesn’t matter how long it was for, or shook hands, that’s a close exposure, that qualifies for a quarantine as well; if you shared food utensils that qualifies as a quarantine; if you are direct caregiver for somebody or they gave care for you, that qualifies; and if somebody sneezed or coughed on you, that’s automatically a direct quarantine, doesn’t matter how close or how long it was.

“The health of the person doesn’t matter, but if they were farther apart than six feet and it was not a very long exposure, then that person truly would not need to quarantine."

CDC AND TESTING FOR ASYMPTOMATIC EXPOSURE

“The full recommendation from the CDC is that they recommend local health officials, states and local health professionals make the decision around testing asymptomatic exposed individuals. The state of Wisconsin, because of our percent positivity and what we’ve experienced, it is recommended that we continue to do that. So in Wisconsin, if you’re exposed and you’re asymptomatic, we are still going to recommend testing. Remember, the exposure we’re talking about are the five categories I just talked about. So if you had a close exposure and you’re asymptomatic, in Wisconsin, the recommendation is to still test you.”

ANTIBODY TESTS

“All antibody tests involve blood. Some involve a venous blood draw that’s blood right out of your arm. Some, a little poke of blood from your finger. The ones we really recommend are those that draw fully from your arm a vial of blood that’s sent to an outside lab. The outside labs are all using different platforms. They’re pretty equivalent when you look at their sensitivity and specificity or how accurate they are at detecting IgG (Immunoglobulin G). In some cases, they can actually tell us how much IgG you have. I’m unaware of what everybody in town is using as far as sending their labs out or running them in house. But they all seem to be equally as accurate. It’s also important to know why do an antibody test? The main reason to do an antibody test as we know right now from the CDC articles and the other articles published, that the immunity from COVID-19, it last for at least 90 days. It may be longer, we haven’t had long enough time to study that. Once you’re exposed and you’ve recovered--you’ve tested positive, you’ve recovered after 10 days--we won’t test you again for 90 days. So why would we draw the antibody? Well, if you’re unsure if you had COVID-19 and you had an illness, and we wanted to see if you COVID-19 if you could be a potential donor for plasma. That’s really the only reason right now to do an antibody test. There are some rare reasons when we’re working up a patient. But for the general population, the main reason to do an antibody test is to see if you could be a potential plasma donor.

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