Interview: Wiregrass internal medicine physician gives pandemic update

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — WDHN’s Ilyana Capellan was able to catch up with Dr. Russell Bedsole of Flowers Hospital and he shared his knowledge on COVID-19 in the Wiregrass and across the country.

Here’s the full interview:

Dr. Bedsole, you hold a weekly Facebook show on your personal page to give an update on the current conditions of the pandemic, can you give me a brief covid-19 update and tell me what you expect after this holiday week?   

I am concerned as we head into Thanksgiving. The virus is spiking all around us, especially in the Midwest, but even here in the Sunbelt cases are as high as they’ve ever been, hospitalizations are high. The death rate, thank goodness, is lagging at this point, but I would say is other epidemiologists across the country have said we’re sort of like a house on fire right now, so I’m I am worried about the next three to four weeks until Christmas. If we don’t, as we’ve said before, bend the curve, we could see some people think you know 250,000 or 300,000 cases a day by the turn of the year, which would just be unbelievable. So, we’re in about the worst situation we’ve been as a country right now. As far as the numbers. Unfortunately, I wish there were better news, but… 

We know there are hotspots across the country are their hotspots here in Alabama?  

There are some hotspots across the state. I I the best resource for that is the Alabama Department of Public Health website, which does a great job of keeping track of County wide numbers. Certain counties in the state or higher than others, but the last update, the state itself was experiencing anywhere depending on you know the 7-to-10-day average, you know 13 up to 18% positivity throughout the state. So really no County, some counties are a little bit less than others, but our entire state remains sort of in the red. Unfortunately, as far as number of positive cases, you’d like that number to be less than 5%, perhaps even 3% and right now we’re still in the once again, depending on the where you read or the figures 15 to 18%

One death is one too many, but How many deaths are expected in Alabama and how many have we had up to this point?   

We’ve unfortunately had a lot of death in the state we’re approaching, or the last figures that I had, I think, were somewhere close to 3000 deaths, roughly some of the models suggest that we’re going to go to 6500 deaths by January – February, depending on which model you read, the countries numbers, as you know, are now well North of 250,000, and some of the models indicate the country itself is headed for you know 360,000 to 400,000, but you know it’s an awful number to think about both locally in our state and nationally. But to think that there could be 6000 to 7000 Alabamians who lost their lives. You know, with this pandemic, as I’ve said on our live cast before, to me, that’s just a sobering number. It just really makes you take pause. But hopefully that won’t happen if we can do our part and under the vaccines are coming, but the predictions aren’t great at this point 

Do you expect there to be more deaths coming with this second wave?   

Unfortunately, I think so. It’s just the number of new infections daily, and as we’ve said before, if someone gets infected then it’s a few days to a couple of weeks later until some people get sick and end up in the hospital. And then it’s a couple of three weeks later before, unfortunately, those patients sometimes die, so it’s a lagging number. Most people think we’re going to see, you know, 1500 to 2000 deaths a day at some point. Hopefully we won’t get there. I’ve said before I congratulate our ICU doctors and nurses and respiratory techs across the country. Everyone has done a tremendous job of learning how to treat this in the hospital. Much better than we knew back in March or April. But it’s just the sheer math. Just the sheer numbers. If you have, you know, 200,000-300,000 people diagnosed every day, even if the case fatality rate remains low, you’re still going to have a growing number of deaths, unfortunately. 

We now have more information about the COVID vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, will flowers hospital be receiving these vaccines once they are approved and distributed and when will that be? 

I don’t know. Yeah, I think all the local hospitals will. I can’t speak specifically for Flowers. I know I believe we will at some point and I know the administration will have the information on that. I think all the local hospitals throughout the state. Actually, I know the Alabama Department of Public Health has a plan for distribution. For Pfizer, Moderna and whatever other vaccine candidates are down the Pike that’s being worked on, I think actively. I would hope, and this is just my personal hope that we would have some access to vaccine, perhaps in January February. So I’ve said before and I’ve told my family and friends, I think light is coming. You know, maybe this is not, the the the end, but it’s the end of the beginning. So if we can all just keep each other safe, I do think the vaccines will be here in a matter of weeks and that won’t stop things immediately. But at least that will begin to turn the tide and to be honest, for the first time in a long time, I think we have some hope. 

In the meantime, what will it take to flatten the curve and keep people safe and healthy while we wait for those vaccines?? 

That’s a great question, and we sort of said this over and over and it sort of gets tried it sometimes I guess, but the mask wearing is key, the distancing is key, especially considering indoor environments. I’m a firm believer that there’s some passage of the virus through ventilation, so it’s not just staying 6 feet apart, but if you’re in a crowded room with twenty other people even if everyone is wearing a mask, it can transmit. Obviously, washing hands is key. Anything you can do outside please do it outside. I know we’re heading into Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I know people want to gather, but please consider those indoor activities if you have older friends or family who are more susceptible, please think about them. Anything you can move outside, please do so. Remember your mask. Remember to keep your distance. Remember the ventilation, these things sound so simple and, in some ways, they are, but there are powerful tools right now and once again with light at the end of the tunnel, we just want to save as many people as we possibly can until the vaccines get here. 
  

The virus is rampant, and people are getting a bit numb to exactly what the numbers mean, tell us how medical professionals are handling this daily stress emotionally and what they want the public to know?   

That’s another very good question. I’ve talked with colleagues across the country and see news reports and many of our colleagues, nurses, doctors, ICU, technicians, respiratory techs across the country are reaching their breaking points, especially in the Midwest, where they’re just saying catastrophic numbers of new patients. It’s taken a toll. There’s been, you know, multiple health care providers and workers who have been out with COVID, many have died, actually. I think the mental aspect of this thing on both patient and provider is underappreciated. The individuals I’ve talked with just stressed, please remember your fellow, you know citizens really not just other patients, but the providers, the nurses, the technicians, because anytime you’re coming in to be treated, especially in an ICU or severe hospital type setting, you know there are people there to take care of you and these people sometimes are literally laying everything on the line to help you and so just wearing the mask, the distancing taking it seriously. I think a lot of people are now, but I still get the sense some people don’t take this as seriously as they should, and I think the health care providers across the country in the world would just say, please realize this is a very real risk. It’s a dangerous virus. It it’s not something that we cannot overcome and it’s not an insurmountable object by any means. No one saying that, but we just need to pull together and protect each other and as I’ve said before, I would just I would ask that everyone have a healthy respect for the virus. 

Most people are trying not to lose hope at this point, is there a light at the end of this tunnel?  

I think so. I really believe like I said, I think this may be the end of the beginning. COVID is not going away in January or February at all but the vaccines, the Moderna, Pfizer, Astra Zeneca earlier this week had some new and exciting data too. I think we’re going to have three or four candidates soon. I really think there’s some exciting possible outpatient therapeutics coming. Don’t know that for sure yet, but I think there may be more armamentarium to treat patients with mild disease to keep them out of the hospital. There’s already been some FDA approval with some antibody treatments which we know about. I really believe there’s light if the vaccines are truly 85, 90- 95% effective gosh, that will change a lot and if we get great participation in the vaccine program then I think we can really knock the virus for a loop, maybe by the spring and what the new normal will look like. No one knows, but and for the first time in a while, the last two weeks I’ve said this, I think there is some light now. 

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