(WEHT) — The days are growing darker as the winter approaches and the surge of COVID is making an encore appearance. Hospitals, including those in the Tri-State are near capacity, and governors are tightening up restrictions.
Brad Byrd talked to health contributor Dr. Payal Patel Dovlatabadi, associate professor of public health at the University of Evansville.
Brad Byrd: Dr. Payal, are you surprised by this surge that appears to be growing?
Dr. Payal: Not at all, this was actually kind of expected, given that temperatures will be getting cooler, we would have lower humidity, viruses typically thrive in this type of weather, people are gathering more inside, and people are getting tired, they want to be around one another. So they’re kind of lessening on the precautions. So know that this was really expected the surge during this time and fall and winter. And so hopefully we can kind of keep the numbers down going forward in the next few months.
Brad: And that brings me to pandemic fatigue. It’s for real for millions of Americans. And it affects all of us in some way. How do you get past that?
Dr. Payal: Right COVID for many people has become part of their daily life. And I understand many are tired, many are experiencing that fatigue. But we have to remember that we all have to work together on this and keeping friends family loved ones safe, and we just have to stick together until COVID kind of subsides and until a vaccine is developed and mass distributed.
Brad: Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s estimated about half of Americans are heading over the river and through the woods to be with family. How much of a risk are they taking and what would you advise?
Dr. Payal: The CDC has actually recommended people to not travel for Thanksgiving. And typically COVID spreads rapidly when multiple families get together under one roof. And especially if families are visiting others who are of a higher risk category or who are elderly, they can experience extremely high risk complications. And so it is advised to not travel over Thanksgiving just to minimize spread and also minimize the number of severe covid cases that we can see.
Brad: And the spread of COVID is no longer a big city problem is becoming a small town crisis. Now, why is that?
Dr. Payal: Well, typically those who live in rural areas, for the most part are older, and they typically experience more health issues compared to other populations. And so also in rural areas, they’re usually a lack of access to health care or minimal health care resources. So when you combine all of these factors, and then you add a pandemic on top of it added highly infectious disease like COVID on top of all that, we really see those in rural areas those in small towns really bear the brunt of the disease.
Brad: Well, dining outside has been one way to mitigate contracting covid in recent months, but that is obviously getting harder with winter setting in a one tool we’re seeing all over the country are those so called plastic igloos, the tents, they are relatively small, with limited seating. how safe is that?
Dr. Payal: Not too safe. Those igloos, the tents, you’re really just taking an indoor setting and putting it outside just because it is enclosed. There’s really not much ventilation. So it’s really an indoor setting, but it’s outside. And if you’re going dining in your COVID bubble, people that you know that’s part of your COVID bubble. Yes, it’s fine, but just dining, thinking that it’s a safer alternative than dining indoors is not true.
Brad: ell, the vaccine, how difficult will it be to distribute and how soon will we see those shots?
Dr. Payal: Indiana, Kentucky many states we’ll see them here in a few months, but most states have distribution plans. So the vaccines will go to the frontline workers first to those in the healthcare industry who are on frontlines treating covid patients and then the vaccines will go to the elderly, the high risk populations and then lastly, it won’t be distributed to the general population. The general population may not see the vaccine until late summer of next year.
Brad: Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment. That’s important especially considering the hospitals are facing a narrowing capacity and we’ve had some doses right here in the Evansville area. How important is that in the interim between now and when we’ll get a vaccine?
Dr. Payal: It is very important, the FDA granted emergency authorization that it is used to treat mild to moderate cases of covid that could lead to high risk complications and children and the elderly. However, there have been shortages of that antibody treatment and so physicians will have to make some difficult decisions regarding that just so that treatment is allocated to the highest risk patients.
Brad: And basically the economy if we are not careful going out to businesses, whether it be to a retail outlet or a restaurant that affects the health issue here. What do you tell small businesses facing tighter restrictions that small business that is facing just closing up shop for good?
Dr. Payal: You know, it’s been hard for everyone but it has really been hard for those small businesses hanging in there. I know many small businesses are trying to be as creative as possible to restore their business during the COVID pandemic. So thinking of creative, unique ideas, and I know you know, social media has been a huge role has played a huge role in maintaining customers with small businesses are so trying to be creative thinking out of the box, and just remembering it is a hard time but um, COVID will subside, and hopefully, everything will get back to somewhat of a normal.