Dr. Rai talks new masking guidelines, the importance of focusing on our health

Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 7:30 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Important metrics in measuring COVID-19 are down right now, but we still need to keep our guard up.

That’s the message from Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai. He joined us on Action 2 News This Morning for a message of hope in our two-year fight against COVID-19 and the importance of focusing on our health.

“Now is the time to refocus on American health care and that means our own health and getting healthier, eating better, exercising,” says Dr. Rai. “So if COVID comes back around we’re better prepared.”

CASES IN WISCONISN

“They’re looking really good pretty much in every metric. The cases per 100,000 are down, our percent positivity is down, our hospitalization utilization--which is that lagging indicator--is down. They’re down, but not zero. We still have a good amount of activity as far as positivity within our area. It’s not overwhelming the health care system by any means. It does mean that if you’re symptomatic, it’s still important to get tested to make sure that you don’t have COVID-19 and that you’re not spreading it.

CDC’S RELAXED MASKING GUIDELINES

“I think it’s important to understand the why, and it is controversial, especially even within the medical community. The why, when we talked about two years ago and why do we need a mask, we really were talking about to mitigate the spread to prevent the hospital systems from becoming overwhelmed. Now since then we’ve learned a lot about COVID-19. We’ve learned about long COVID, we’ve learned about what it can do to children. We’ve learned about how many people it can kill. But really, when the CDC was looking at that mask mandate or mask recommendations, they were going back to their initial let’s not overwhelm the hospital systems. So there is some controversy. What about all those other aspects? They’re really looking at what’s called a community level based on three different things.

“One is the true caseload within a community, so how many cases per 100,000 are there? They’re also looking at hospital capacity, how many beds are being used? And then how many of those beds are actively new COVID patients on a seven day average? The data’s not perfect. Not every community has the same level of hospital capacity so the numbers can be skewed. These are the numbers the CDC are using. If you’re in the green level, make sure you’re vaccinated and boosted. If you’re in the yellow level, make sure you’re vaccinated, boosted, and if you have chronic health conditions that put you at high risk please wear a mask. They do say talk to your doctor about wearing a mask, but seriously, if you have those chronic conditions, wear a mask. If we’re in a red level, everybody should be masking indoors, plus being vaccinated and boosted.”

SCHOOLS

“We hope that it doesn’t create any more spread because technically, when you look at those numbers, the percent positivity being down, the cases per 100,000, that it’s not as prevalent in our society so we shouldn’t see that level of spread in schools. It doesn’t mean we’re going to get down to zero percent COVID. It does mean that kids may get sick from this, but once again, the CDC is looking at what they feel is reasonable and the why behind the masks at mitigating that high level of spread.”

KEEP OUR GUARD UP

“We should definitely keep our guard up. COVID-19′s definitely not gone by any means. We still see spread throughout the world. Let’s remember that most of our variants, if not all our variants of concern, weren’t actually born in the United States--it doesn’t mean the next one can’t be--but it does mean we have to keep our guard up, that we could see more variants, and our immunity over time, either from vaccine or from disease-acquired immunity, may wane. We don’t know if it will or not. We may see another surge of the variants we know. We may see another variant. It’s important to always keep our guard up, to watch for symptoms, to get tested, but for right now, some of the mitigation things we used to prevent really big spread, we can start to back away from.

“Really, variants are going to happen no matter what because as long as the disease is replicating, we’re going to get a variant. What that variant does, is it a variant of concern? Those are things we just can’t predict right now.”

STAYING HEALTHY

“One of the hardest things about COVID-19, especially in health care over the past two years, is how much health care has been missed. There’s the scheduled health care, there’s the mammograms and the colonoscopies, and there’s articles right now on what’s that causing for later diagnosed cancers. Cancers that were caught early could have been saved. That’s the stuff that’s been going on in health care that’s been missed.

“But then there’s the stuff in our lives that we’ve been missing. Not everybody’s maybe been eating the best, exercising the most. Feeling locked in or taking care of their mental health. If we looked at the sheer amount of death that we saw in this last year from COVID-19, a lot would have been prevented if 5, 10, 15 years ago we had started taking care of our health. Now is the time to refocus on American health care and that means our own health and getting healthier, eating better, exercising so if COVID comes back around we’re better prepared.”

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