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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 4/23/20

"The Virus Is Still Out There": Infectious Disease Expert Warns Against Reopening States Too Soon

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Despite strong objections of public health officials, governors in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina still plan to reopen parks, beaches and nonessential businesses. Even Trump reversed his support. Increased testing is critical for the whole country. But where are the tests? We look at the path ahead with Dr. Syra Madad, infectious disease specialist and special pathogens expert, who was recently featured in the Netflix docuseries "Pandemic."

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AMY GOODMAN: Well, we are broadcasting from New York City, where the COVID-19 death toll has passed 15,000. The number of daily deaths has finally begun to decrease, after more than a month of strict social distancing. Officials warn there is still a long road ahead for New York's recovery. Increased testing will be critical as New York City and other localities look to slowly reopen certain parts of society.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo met with President Trump in Washington on Tuesday to discuss federal aid for expanding testing capacity, and said the president committed to helping New York state double both its COVID-19 and antibody tests to 40,000 a day. But Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he's against giving states more federal aid in future pandemic legislation, suggesting states should instead consider filing for bankruptcy. Governor Cuomo called the statement "one of the saddest, really dumb comments of all time," unquote.

This all comes as the governors in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina are preparing to reopen parks, beaches and nonessential businesses despite the strong objections of public health officials. Last weekend, President Trump encouraged far-right anti-quarantine protesters many of them openly brandishing assault rifles tweeting they should "liberate" Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia. But on Tuesday, Trump said he disagreed strongly with Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp's decision to reopen businesses.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The spas and the beauty parlors and barber shops, tattoo parlors, I love 'em, but they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit, not much, because safety has to predominate. We have to have that. So, I told the governor, very simply, that I disagree with his decision, but he has to do what he thinks is right.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned a second wave of the coronavirus could hit the U.S. in the winter with even more devastating results.

For more, we're joined by Dr. Syra Madad, an infectious disease specialist, special pathogens expert, here in New York City. She was recently featured in the Netflix docuseries Pandemic, which premiered in January.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Dr. Madad. It's great to have you with us. Why don't we start off with what seems to be, to the shock of many, this controversial issue of testing? How is it possible in the United States that we are still at the point where just last week a 92-year-old woman, the mother of our co-host Juan Gonza'lez, went to a top hospital in New Jersey, 92 years old with COVID symptoms, and she was told she could not be tested? Only when they finally agreed to admit her did they say, well, then they had to do a COVID test to decide which wing to put her in. But that is one of many, many examples, the lack of access that governors, that people in general all over the country, have to tests. Why is testing so important?

DR. SYRA MADAD: It's a great question. Everyone's asking that: Why testing is so important? And I'm sure many people keep hearing about, you know, ramping up testing. And the reason why testing is so important, not only to know that you actually are infected with coronavirus disease, while probably clinical management won't change much, unless you're in the high-risk group and require additional services, but it's also extremely important to know you're positive, so that way we can isolate you, and so you don't start new chains of transmission.

And unfortunately, here in the United States, we've almost seen a hit a plateau when it comes to testing. We're not really increasing the number of testing being done yet, for a number of different reasons. One big one is because of the whole supply chain aspect, because there's not enough of the reagents and the swabs that are needed to actually conduct the testing. A lot of states actually have the infrastructure to do the testing, but really it's relying on the supplies itself, that unfortunately is just not there yet.

And so we really need to make sure we have widespread testing and a good infrastructure in place. That way, we can test anybody that needs it. So, you know, if you're symptomatic, even if you're asymptomatic, we want to make sure that we have a test available to be able to see whether you have coronavirus disease, because the biggest thing is we want to make sure that you're able to isolate yourself so you don't start these new chains of transmission and infect additional people. This is, you know, a very highly transmissible virus that's proven to be quite lethal, if you will. So we need to really make sure that we have these systems in place in order for us to really open back up, if you will.

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Democracy Now!  is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Pioneering the largest public media collaboration in the U.S., Democracy Now! is broadcast on (more...)
 
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