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Dr. Rai talks importance of flu shots and the return of football

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 7:56 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - As flu season approaches, doctors and scientists are concerned about people getting dual infections of influenza and COVID-19. Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai encourages people to get a flu shot as soon as it is available.

Dr. Rai joined us Thursday on Action 2 News This Morning and he discussed who should get tested, the return of NFL football and the halted vaccine trial.

Dr. Rai joins us every Thursday. Have a question for him? Email news@wbay.com.

FLU SHOTS

"It’s probably the most important thing we can do outside of monitoring our symptoms, wearing our masks, physical distancing. The next step we’ll add to that is get your flu shot. Because having influenza and COVID at the same time has been proven to be much worse of an illness. So we want to make sure you get your flu shot and as soon as you can find it, it’s available. For example, we’ll start our flu shot clinics here in a week or two, by the end of this month. So as soon as you can get your appointment with your provider or go into anywhere that offers the flu shot, get it now.

ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING

Should people without symptoms be getting tested for COVID-19? Will it help slow the spread of the virus?

“You have to remember a negative test means you’re negative when we put that swab in your nose. That’s why it’s most important to test you when you have symptoms--any kind of symptoms--remember the list is pretty long. And it’s a low threshold to get tested. Or if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. Wouldn’t it be great if we could test everybody a lot? It would be great. The resources aren’t there for that. We did that for a brief time in Brown County to get an analysis of the outbreak we had going on at the time. But probably not practical to get tested everybody all the time right now.”

CLICK HERE to view COVID-19 symptoms.

AIR TRAVEL AND TESTING

Some countries are requiring a negative COVID-19 tests within three days prior to international travel.

“Certain countries are requiring it. Certain colleges required it before students went back. If you’re able to call in to your health care provider, you are able to get that test. It’s sent to a commercial lab so it’s not included in the free testing from the state. Turnaround time is usually less than 72 hours for that, like our state turnaround time. You’ll get that result before you fly out. It is possible, it just takes a little extra work.”

EXPOSURE TO PEOPLE WITHOUT MASKS

A viewer’s furniture delivery worker was medically cleared to not wear a mask. What should people do when they are around others who can’t wear a mask?

"Because certain people can’t wear a mask, you’re going to have that encounter at times, whether it’s at your home, in a store, in an office. Most important thing you can do is physically distance from that person. Make sure you’re not having a prolonged encounter with that person. And then monitor yourself for symptoms. A lot of people ask if they should be tested after being exposed to somebody who doesn’t have a mask. It goes back to you’re only negative for the day we’re testing you, so it’s hard to predict which day that you may contract the virus if you’re exposed to it. So the most important thing you can do is monitor yourself for symptoms, get tested if you have any symptoms at all, and make sure you’re minimizing contact with that person, staying far away and making sure it’s for a short period of time.

PERMANENT ORGAN DAMAGE

Does COVID-19 cause permanent damage in the heart, lungs or kidneys and is it tracked?

“We know it’s happening. We definitely have evidence to that. We have patients that are presenting weeks after recovery with issues, but it’s hard to know specifically who those people are and to track that. So it’s not actually being tracked. We know it’s out there. But it would be kind of hard to know everybody who had that. For example, people have recovered and they don’t know they may have a heart condition after COVID-19 called myocarditis until they have significant symptoms. Once again, we know it’s there, we’ve seen patients with it, we just don’t have a percentage.”

ACCURACY OF TESTS

“We know the gold standard--and the gold standard is not perfect--it just means the best that we have, is that nasal PCR test. The one that when you come through one of our drive-thrus that you’re going to get. The rapid test definitely has its use, it’s great if somebody’s symptomatic and they’re positive, we know pretty much they have COVID-19. If they’re symptomatic and it’s negative, we actually have to do a confirmatory test to make sure it’s a true negative. So it’s not as good as that nasal PCR, but it’s getting closer and it’s positive predictive value.”

FAIRS AND SPREAD

"We know that any time that a group of people is together, specifically indoors and masking is not done well, that we’ve seen positive cases come from those situations. It may be a wedding, it may be a party, it may be any kind of event. So to say it was the Brown County Fair versus "X" wedding or a dinner of 20 people, it’s really hard to be able to assess that, especially because there’s so many events going on. It’s a lot easier to say a breakout’s happening in say, a nursing home, where it’s a congregant setting and nobody’s moving around. When it comes to a specific event, much harder to track.

NFL SEASON STARTS

The Kansas City Chiefs will allow about 16,800 fans in Arrowhead Stadium Thursday night for the season opener.

The Green Bay Packers will not have fans for their first couple of games.

“Definitely excited about football, but at the same time, any time you put people into a mass setting like that--1,000, 10,000, 15,000--you’re nervous because you know the virus spreads from human to human. That’s how the virus continues to live on. So you hope they’re maintaining their physical distancing, masking when they can, and being safe. Reducing the number of fans is important, but then the fans definitely have to keep themselves separated. We hope that happens in that environment. As far as what we have happening locally, I guess we should be thankful that we’re not going to be the guinea pig in this situation. Kansas City is the guinea pig. We’ll see what happens in those settings, how to do it safe, learn from it in a few weeks, and then hopefully we’ll have fans here locally, too.”

CLASSES GOING VIRTUAL

“It’s something that we expected to happen and we said it for months as we prepared for school that it’s impossible to have pure mitigation or suppression, especially where our percent positivity was high enough knowing that we had community spread like we do. So people are doing the right thing when they see a situation where they have the opportunity to mitigate even more by doing quarantining or by a switch to virtual for a short period of time, if they’re able to do it, that makes sense. Certain schools have the ability to spread out. Certain don’t. Certain ones have the ability to shut down and open back up. The fact that we’re having positive cases in a dorm or in a classroom shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody, and I think the schools are doing a good job of reacting appropriately, taking the right steps, and planning for the future.”

VACCINE TRIAL

AstraZeneca has paused its COVID-19 vaccine trial after someone fell ill.

“It’s hard to know right now without having the reports on what happened to that one patient. It could be something as simple as they had a different illness that was discovered that had nothing to do with the vaccine, but they’ve got to take a pause and make sure--such as a heart problem or say a stroke even happened, which would be a bad situation--but they want to make sure it’s not vaccine-related. Or it could be something significant that could be related to the vaccine. They could have had a neurological or an autoimmune response to that. That’s important to know. So it’s good that they stop it. It’s good that we try to figure out what’s going on and then hopefully restart it safely, or have to pivot to a different vaccine that’s maybe created differently that’s safer.”

DAILY POSITIVITY RATES

"There’s a lot of things that can happen in the state labs. Number one, not maybe everybody was open over the weekend, or testing sites weren’t open. So it’s not just the labs that we should be talking about. It’s the overall infrastructure for testing. Obviously, over a weekend--especially a holiday weekend--can have issues. And we saw that. It’s important to know how many tests were done that day. And like we’ve been saying since March or April, we can’t look at this in a single day. You can never look at "X" amount of percentage positive in a single day. Look at it over a two-week time period. Plot out that trend line and make sure it is statistically significant before we take any type of action."

WISCONSIN TREND

“Even when you adjust for some of the noise in the data, it’s still trending upward, it’s still concerning and we have to make sure that we’re still testing aggressively, so when we look at that from health care, when we look at that daily number we’re looking not only at OK, we need to be educating more, but are we testing enough? Do we have enough testing sites? Those are the types of situations we should be looking at. Because we want that percent positivity to go down. The only way that goes down is you find people who have the disease, you quarantine, you prevent the spread from human to human, and that means testing a lot more people.”

CLICK HERE to track COVID-19 stats in Wisconsin.

DISTANCING AND MASKING

“We need to be smarter, we need to make sure we’re consistent, we’re maintaining our distance or wearing our masks when appropriate. And we’re making sure that we’re using our head, we’re not having those large congregant settings.”

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