Dr. Rai on COVID spread in Wisconsin: “We need to slow this down”

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 7:14 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - “I don’t remember ever seeing the rate of rise of cases this high right now,” says Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai on the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin.

“Here, our cases started spiking last week, so this week and next week is when we really start to worry about what’s happening in our hospitals. We’re starting to see an increase as of today.”

Dr. Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning to discuss the impact of the increases of cases on our stressed hospital system, the importance of testing, and the new isolation and quarantine guidelines.

WISCONSIN SITUATION

“I don’t remember ever seeing the rate of rise of cases this high right now. Our percent positivity, I think the state of Wisconsin said every one-in-four people they’re testing is positive. Looked at some of our own Prevea data, it’s more like one-in-three that we’re testing are positive. It’s important to remember these aren’t just people with symptoms. These are people that maybe are getting a test before they travel or a test before a procedure. When you see that high of a number, one-in-three, one-in-four, it’s the highest rate that we’ve ever seen. What happens there--although we’ve described omicron as maybe not putting you in the hospital as much, or some people like to use the word mild, I’m not sure that’s the right word here as we’re still looking for evidence, but even if a small number of patients need to go to the hospital, and primarily, unfortunately, that’s our unvaccinated population, that’s a small percentage of a really big number. As we saw in New York, that small percentage of a really big number is a really big number and hospitals are overwhelmed. Here, our cases started spiking last week, so this week and next week is when we really start to worry about what’s happening in our hospitals. We’re starting to see an increase as of today.

“It’s going to be impossible to avoid omicron. It’s not about trying to prevent it. It’s about trying to slow it down, trying to mitigate and slow it down. Yeah, hospital staff are going to be infected, health care staff are going to be infected, law enforcement are going to be infected. We saw, I think the national highlights about the plane delays and cancellations because staff are getting sick, now apply that to health care, apply that to your firefighter, apply that to your law enforcement. That’s critical. We need to slow this down. Even taking hospital staff now, they’ve shortened it down to five days, that’s still five days without critical staff in our community and that’s concerning.”

TESTING

“Unfortunately, with omicron, turnaround time is very important, so you really want a short turnaround time because the incubation period is short and we need to have that answer right away to isolate you. When you start talking about could we test 10,000 more people in a day? Maybe. But then the lab would be backed up and we wouldn’t get results for three-to-four days and it would be useless. So right now, getting that turnaround time to less than a day is important. Yeah, test sites are booking out one-to-two days in advance. So it’s important if you have symptoms to wait until you get tested before you go back to work or before you go to school because you may have it and you want to slow that down. Be patient. If you’ve been exposed and need a test in five days schedule that the day you’re exposed, not on the fifth day, and start to plan ahead.”

ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE GUIDELINES

“It’s important to understand that isolation is when you’re positive, and when you’re positive now, you need to isolate the day after your test, so your test day is day zero, and five days from there you need to isolate. If your symptoms are better on day five, you can go back with a mask on for another five days.

“Quarantine is when you’ve been exposed. If you’ve been boosted, you don’t really need to quarantine but you do need to mask for that 10 days. If you’ve been exposed and you’re not boosted, vaccinated or unvaccinated, you need to quarantine for five days--which is stay at home and avoid people--get a test on day five, and if that’s negative, go back. But remember when you’re going back for that 10 days, it’s important to have that mask on to prevent any spread at that point.”

BOOSTERS FOR 12-15

“The FDA has approved it. We’ve said this from day one, the next step right now would be the CDC approving it. They have a couple different routes they can go on, but hopefully we’ll get their approval by the end of the week and then we can start scheduling that. This is for people who have received their two doses already of an mRNA vaccine--Pfizer or Moderna--for 12-15-year-olds, and it has to be five months--not six months--five months since their last shot. That’s the one small change that parents have to be aware. We know boosters protect. Right now, when we see the pediatric admissions across this country, it’s very important that we scramble to protect our children. If you don’t have your child vaccinated yet, get them vaccinated, and if they’re 12-to-15 get them boosted. We are definitely seeing pediatric cases across the country going up and we’re seeing kids get sick and in the hospital. Remember, none of us want to be part of that really small percent, so get your kids vaccinated, get them boosted.”

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