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Published on September 14, 2020

COVID-19: What’s Ahead and What to Do to Stay Safe

COVID-19: What's Ahead and What to Do to Stay Safe

Chief physician executive Bruce Swords, MD, PhD, discusses COVID-19 and why it's important to continue wearing a mask, washing your hands and waiting 6 feet apart in this 2 Your Well-Being discussion with WFMY News 2. 

How long is COVID-19 expected to be around?

“We need a crystal ball. I need it. You need it. We all need it. The unsatisfying answer to that is for the foreseeable future - and really what I mean by that, I think most of us who speak to this mean by that - is certainly into the fall, winter and perhaps the spring. And of course, we're all eagerly awaiting the possibility of a vaccine and perhaps other therapeutics that might impact the disease.”

Do you expect there to be a second wave of cases?

“We have been saying for a long time that - at least at Cone Health - we're not thinking about this as waves anymore. We are in a pandemic. We've essentially had a fair number of patients in our hospitals and our communities with COVID and it's been reasonably steady with some fluctuations over the past several months, so I'm not anticipating another big wave because we haven't left the last big wave.”

It’s been predicted that the United States could see more than 300,000 deaths.

“I wouldn't be surprised if we had 300,000 people die with COVID. When that happens is, you know, for the data scientists to figure out. But I would not be surprised if we have upwards of 300,000 deaths in the United States." 

Is there a way to prevent that from happening?

“Yes, we can get back to the basics here. And I think it is really important for us to just stay with what we know works and that is stay away from people, wear a mask - wear a mask all the time, wear a mask over your mouth and nose, don't wear it as a mouth strap or a chin strap, wear the mask over your mouth and nose - and wash your hands. And if we do those things, we will see success. We've had periods of success and we've had periods where we haven't seen as much success, and it's typically related to large group gatherings where the success has been thwarted.”

These preventative measures - wearing a face mask, social distancing - how long will we need to practice them?

“I think those parts of what we have adapted to are going to be with us for a while. And again, I would say through the fall and the spring we will be seeing people wear masks, we will be encouraging people to stay away from each other well into the spring. I think our best guess is the way that will change will be based on a when an adequate immunization becomes available.”

How risky is it to ignore these recommendations and not wear a mask?

I think we have all the data that we need that makes it clear that masks work, and we know that when people don't wear masks and they're in close proximity to each other, the virus spreads like wildfire. We also know that in hospital studies when people who are infected with coronavirus and those people wear a mask and their health care providers, physicians, nurses other clinicians wear a mask, the virus isn't spread. So we know that masks work. I think all of the discussions out in the community about masks not working isn't a worthy conversation. It is important that people wear a mask and wear them appropriately.”

Do you think that life will ever be the same?

“I think we're going to get back to something much more normal, many months from now. That certainly is my hope and desire and the way to get there is we all have to be community members, play on the same team. Let's knock this thing out and stay away from each other, wear a mask. If we do those things, we'll get back to normalcy reasonably quickly, but everybody has to be playing on the same team.”

2 Your Well-Being

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