Dr. Rai: Overturning mask order would “result in more Wisconsin people losing their lives”

Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 7:40 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Members of Wisconsin’s Assembly are poised to vote to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’ order that people wear masks to protect each other from COVID-19. Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai says that’s a grave mistake.

“You don’t like how it was done. If you’re in the legislature and you don’t like the governor and how it was done, that’s fine. Argue among yourselves and find out a solution. Pass a new mask mandate. Don’t get rid of one. Do one that you like, I guess, however the politics of this work. But this would be the worst time in history to undo something,” says Dr. Rai.

Dr. Rai joined us Thursday on Action 2 News This Morning to discuss vaccine groupings, accessibility at the UW-Green Bay clinic and answer your questions.

Dr. Rai joins us Tuesdays and Thursdays. Have a question? Email news@wbay.com

Previous Dr. Rai segments: https://www.wbay.com/health/drrai/

Guide to scheduling a vaccination appointment: https://www.wbay.com/2021/01/25/guide-to-making-an-appointment-for-covid-19-vaccine/


“There’s a lot of opinions about everything these days, but definitely on the list. Understand a lot of time went through and professionals created that list. When you look at that list, please understand that they actually listed it in order of the priorities, too. And they’ve said it’s a very large amount of people. There’s a large amount of people 65-and-older before them that they’re trying to get a good majority of that vaccinated before they would turn on even vaccinating this list. Just because it was announced on Tuesday doesn’t mean that list is being vaccinated today. It shouldn’t be. It should wait until at least March 1. They didn’t guarantee that would be the start date. They also didn’t say the entire list would start on March 1. That it’s set in a list of priorities, and we expect more guidance on that in the coming weeks. So, you may want to advocate one way or the other, but it is what it is. It’s a large group of people. And we can get through it much faster if we get more vaccine from the federal government and that’s really going to be the rate limiting step in this.”


“We hear good things from the federal government. Now we just want to see good things from the federal government. We want to see deliveries of more vaccine. More and more large sites, like ours at UWGB, are being under development or being launched. You need to be able to feed them so they can put shots in arms. We don’t want staff just sitting around and waiting. We don’t want to have this infrastructure created and wait for the vaccine. We want to get that vaccine in Wisconsin arms as quickly as possible.”


Some viewers have shared their praise for the vaccine clinic at UWGB. What about people who are less mobile or may be afraid to visit a large campus? Is it accessible?

“I think there’s a little bit of fear because it’s UWGB, it’s a beautiful campus, not everybody’s been out there. We’re improving the signage every day. We want to make sure it’s a safe environment for everybody. And we really did focus on this, especially knowing that one of the first groups would be 65-and-older. So we want to make sure that for those who have a hard time walking, we built a lot of handicapped spots right in front. We also made sure there’s navigators throughout this process. Those are Prevea employees from the time you walk in to the time you leave that are there to navigate you while remaining physically distanced. There’s stickers on the ground. There’s wheelchairs if you have a hard time walking. Hopefully, that process is nice and smooth for you. We’ll even navigate you if you need to use the restroom to make sure that’s done safely for you.”


“Probably the biggest thing to remember is you need an appointment to be there. So make sure you have one. Don’t show up without one. When you are there, understand that the more you can do pre-registering, that’s great. If you can’t do all of your paperwork, we’ll help you through it when you get there.”


The state Assembly is set to vote Thursday to overturn the governor’s mask order.

“You look at what’s going on with COVID right now. I just got our hospital numbers overnight. Second highest bump in admissions that I’ve seen in a couple weeks. Over 4,000 people in the country died yesterday. That’s more than 9/11, and that’s been happening every day for days. We’re over 400,000 in this country who’ve passed away. We have a new variant in this country called B.1.1.7, initially started in England, and it spreads much faster. And when we talk about spreading much faster, that means more people will get infected and more people will die in that situation. From the federal government and scientists who work for the CDC to your local physicians, Wisconsin Medical Society, and those who work in the hospital, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, those who take care of this entire state when it comes to health care, have said that we need a mask mandate. Do not vote to undo this. I understand the politics of this. You don’t like how it was done. If you’re in the legislature and you don’t like the governor and how it was done, that’s fine. Argue among yourselves and find out a solution. Pass a new mask mandate. Don’t get rid of one. Do one that you like, I guess, however the politics of this work. But this would be the worst time in history to undo something. It will truly result in more Wisconsin people losing their lives. It’s the wrong thing to do.”


Why are people with medical conditions, such as diabetes and COPD, not in the next vaccine grouping? Does vaccinating younger people ahead of high risk people go against all the recommendations?

“In all honesty, it kind of does. We’re not the ones making the rules to who gets to go next. That’s recommendations from the federal government and recommendations from those on state committees, and eventually the state government. You’re right. There’s no talking around it. If you’re a 58-year-old with diabetes, high blood pressure, and COPD, I’d rather have you vaccinated next versus say, a 28-year-old that’s an educator. Both are really important to society. Both are really important for different reasons, to get a vaccine. So it’s really hard for those making the decisions to say who should come first and who should come second. And that really can only be solved by vaccinating everybody and that’s just getting more vaccine. As it stands today, those who have underlying conditions will have to wait for this next group to go first.”


A viewer who receives Remicade (used to treat arthritis, Crohn’s disease, colitis) to protect the immune system wants to know if it is safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Once again, it’s always important if you have an underlying health condition and you’re worried about getting the vaccine, that you go meet with your primary care physician, or in this case your rheumatologist. In general, if you’re on Remicade or other medications like that, there’s no contraindication, in other words there’s no reason for you not to get the vaccine, it shouldn’t cause any issues with your underlying disease, especially this vaccine in the form that it’s given. That being said, everybody’s a unique patient. So make sure you’re talking to your physician before you get it.”


If people are exposed to COVID-19 between vaccine doses, should they quarantine?

“I’m glad you said two doses, because I think some people get this impression that, ‘I got my first shot, I’m good.’ It’s your first shot, wait 21-to-28 days, depending on the brand you get. Get your second shot, wait two weeks after that, and that’s where we say you have about a 95 percent--anywhere from 92-to-95-percent protection against COVID-19. Not 100 percent. Until we have a majority of our population, let’s say 75-to-80 percent, that’s either been vaccinated or had COVID-19 and recovered, more preferably on the vaccine side, can we say that it’s truly safe that we’re not going to infect other people or get an infection? Because it’s not 100 percent. So yes, if you were exposed and you’ve been vaccinated, there is a recommendation from the CDC that you quarantine. That recommendation will probably evolve as more and more people get vaccinated. Either the quarantine time or who quarantines or not. But as it stands today, you would quarantine. And most definitely the recommendation to mask and physically distance, even after you’ve been vaccinated, because once again, it’s not 100 percent.”


As people get vaccinated and feel safe to visit each other, could that increase infections?

“So, you are concerned about that. So you want to make sure that number one, you’ve had those two shots, you’ve waited two weeks, and preferably everybody around you has been vaccinated, and then the risk gets mitigated even more. Mitigation means it’s controlled. The risk is down. So yes, after you’re protected from the vaccine, you have really mitigated your risk, significantly. Then you have to make a decision what’s a safe way to go ahead and interact with people? Is it a small gathering with four people, all of which, around the same age, who are vaccinated? That’s a lot safer then say, situations where you have unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals. You can still gather in a small area, a small number of people, hopefully a big area, small number of people. Mask and physically distance, but still see each other.”


Some scientists have recommended double masking to protect against new variants of the COVID-19 vaccine. Should we wear double cloth masks or a surgical mask with a KN95 over it?

“There’s a lot out there on double masking, so I think it’s good to kind of clarify this, so thanks for asking the question. The CDC has not changed its recommendation. There are members of the federal government who are scientists, like Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, who has said, ‘You know, double masking makes common sense right now.’ And he’s not wrong, especially as we see this new variant, B.1.1.7, or the UK variant, that is his highly transmissible, and it may not cause more serious disease, but remember, if it’s highly transmissible, that means more people will get it. That means more people will die, just statistically from there. So we want to be able to mitigate and control that. Now every layer you add on with masking definitely helps. And we’ve seen that scientifically. So that’s why he [Fauci] made the statement, ‘It’s common sense if you were to add a second layer to that.’ Now if you choose to do that, you’d wear the more protective layer first and the cloth mask on side of it. Right now I’ll hold up the mask I wear right before I come on air and take off. This happens to be a KN95 mask. It’s a five-layer mask. If I were to choose to even double mask on top of this, I would put a cloth mask on the outside of that. Helps keep it clean, first of all, and it can add some added protection. But it is not a CDC recommendation right now, but it’s a little common sense knowing we have this new variant and just how transmissible it is, and it creates some extra protection right now.”

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