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Dr. Rai talks rising COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, importance of masking at school

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 7:49 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai says masking does not hurt children or pose threats to their health. During a visit to Action 2 News This Morning, Dr. Rai talked about why it is so important to help protect our kids as COVID-19 cases rise in Wisconsin.

“It doesn’t hurt kids. That information is wrong on the internet. Retaining carbon dioxide, preventing breathing, causing problems--a group of pulmonologists all across the country signed a letter and published it nationally that that’s not the issue. The issue is masks aren’t perfect, but they will help prevent the spread. We should be using them to protect our children and keep them in school,” says Dr. Rai.

Watch the video attached to the story for Dr. Rai’s full segment from Friday, Aug. 27, 2021.

CASES AND HOSPITALIZATIONS

“Wisconsin and Brown County is not moving in the right direction. As we stand today, our cases per 100,000 this time last year, are almost double that period. That’s concerning us. The rate of rise, as you can see on the graphic in front of you, all the way to the right, you can kind of see the slope between August and September being a pretty high slope--and last year, it gradually went up. If we continue on this rate of rise, we’re very, very concerned by the cases. Unfortunately, when you get cases per 100,000 that get to this level, it translates to hospitalizations. So we’re starting to see a lot more people in the hospital. Yesterday, when we looked at hospitalizations across all of Brown County, it was higher than it was at this time last year. What’s concerning is we’re going into the fall, and schools, and things we know are going to raise the cases because people are going to be indoors with a high case rate. So we’re concerned.”

BREAKTHROUGH CASES

“The statistics on there, kind of one of those things we’ll know at the end of it, we don’t know exactly what the statistics are. What we do know is both published by the Wisconsin DHS, the CDC, our own stats, is that the majority of what we’re seeing in the hospital--a vast majority--are unvaccinated cases, not what we would consider a breakthrough case. What we’re seeing in breakthrough cases are mild, low-grade infections. So a lot of times you don’t know you have it. So it’s hard to know that statistic. But what that’s telling us is those that are vaccinated, the number one end point, so if we back all the way to December, we talk about the research, the number one end point around the vaccine was preventing hospitalization and death. And it’s doing that really well. Now, as we get farther out from that initial shot, are we seeing people with some mild infections? Yes.”

BOOSTER

“There’s probably a couple things in play when it comes to needing an extra shot or a booster. One being the length of time since your last shot, the other being some of the characteristics we see with the Delta variant: just that high viral load, it’s ability to cause a breakthrough infection. Once again, the vaccine is preventing what it was supposed to prevent, which is getting into the hospital and dying.

“Right now, we’re giving a third shot for those that are severely immune-compromised. Usually that’s due to medications they’re on: chemotherapy, some drugs for Chron’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis. Those patients can start scheduling now. And they are. And we’re giving them. As far as the rest of us who are generally healthy that we would want that extra dose because we’re so far out from the first dose, that’s likely going to begin at the end of September. It’s important to know that the FDA and the CDC still have to do their work. I think the president put out September 20. That’s more of an approximation. We gotta let the work be done. And that’s likely going to be eight months after your second shot when you would get that.”

TESTING

“Outside of vaccines, it’s one of the most important tools we have. We’re probably not using it enough. People are tired. People are very exhausted with COVID. I’m exhausted with COVID. So they forget the fact that we need to test. Every mild symptom go in and get tested. That runny nose is not allergies until we know it’s not COVID. That sore throat, that low-grade fever is not a summer cold--it could be COVID. Get tested. Testing turnaround times, one-to-two days to get that result. If you have symptoms you should be staying home while you’re waiting for that test. We’re starting to see with school going, more screening testing like college students getting their testing on a weekly basis. Those are really good tools in situations where we’re worried right now.”

SCHOOL MASKING DEBATES

“I’ve said this many times on air and I’ll say it again: I’m a parent. I think as a parent, when it comes to this, and as a physician, and all of our efforts should be to protect our children. Everything we do should be around that. And masking is the tool that we have today. It doesn’t hurt kids. That information is wrong on the internet. Retaining carbon dioxide, preventing breathing, causing problems--a group of pulmonologists all across the country signed a letter and published it nationally that that’s not the issue. The issue is masks aren’t perfect, but they will help prevent the spread. We should be using them to protect our children and keep them in school.

“We should say a big thank you to our kids because they’re caught in the middle here. If you tell them to put on a mask, they’re generally really happy and compliant. Our teachers, and our superintendents and our parents who are all stressed right now. We should be thanking each other. We should be positive about school. We’re going back to school. It’s such a good thing. Let’s just do it safely.”

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