Doctors and nurses were among the more than 19,700 people who phoned in to participate in Rep. Tom Suozzi’s coronavirus town hall meeting Thursday.
It became clear during the hour-long tele-conference that local physicians are seeing patients with symptoms at a frequency that is escalating rapidly.
“It will come to a point where it’s the predominant illness you see,” Suozzi said to a Huntington doctor who called in during the question and answer session.
The most important aspect of the call, Suozzi said, was to instill a sense of urgency and responsibility among his constituents.
“Prevention! Prevention! Prevention!” Suozzi stated repeatedly in the telephone conference call. “The next few weeks are very, very important.”
Stay six feet apart. Wash your hands. Don’t touch face. Wash your hands.
Be prepared, not scared, was the meeting mantra.
“If everybody does their little piece, we’ll be in better place one week from now two weeks from now,” Suozzi said.
Healthcare Questions Dominate Discussion
The hour-long Question and Answer session aimed to review both the healthcare and the economic aspects of the pandemic. But most people who called in asked healthcare-related questions. After 60 minutes passed, little time was left to discuss the financial implications of the pandemic.
The congressman wanted people to know that federal and state governments are working on both aspects of situation. The situation is complex and the goal, he said, is to address the situation comprehensively for immediate needs and in long-term.
On the federal and state levels, officials are trying to put money in people’s pockets. They want to help individuals, businesses, healthcare and get money to governments.
Suozzi said that they have not figured it all out yet.
People can expect to hear more about a massive $1 trillion package next week, Suozzi said. The goals is to help people who can’t pay their mortgage, rent and other bills.
Suozzi said he secured $6 billion for New York.
Securing Hospital Beds Become Priority
President and CEO of Northwell Health Michael Dowling and Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, Northwell’s head of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine, were on hand to answer questions.
Together they agreed not to sugar coat the situation. The virus will spread, they said, but nobody knows for sure how big it will be.
“We will win this,” Dowling said. “We don’t know exactly when, but it’s important to stay calm.”
People don’t make rational decisions when they’re anxious, Dowling noted.
The one clear statistic driving the decision-making is the health outcome of positive cases. Eighty percent of people diagnosed will have mild to moderate symptoms. Twenty percent will be serious cases that require hospitalization. Five percent will need intubation.
Securing enough beds, Dowling said, is a priority.
In a worse-case scenario, Suozzi said New York could need 100,000 beds. It only has 50,000. A ship is heading to New York, which can accommodate another 1,000 beds.
To confront the bed shortage, officials are emphasizing the importance of preventing the spread of the disease, which is more transmittable than other germs.
The good news is that flu season is coming to an end, which will open beds. Hospitals have cancelled or delayed elective surgeries and procedures.
If things do get out of control, one caller asked, what will be the protocol for allocating scarce resources? Dowling and Carney said that physicians and nurses are very concerned about this potential situation.
The response, Dowling said, would be thoughtful, compassionate. It will follow evidence-based advocacy and offer support.
Improving the Outcome
Effective treatment for COVID-19, Suozzi said, would dramatically improve the outcome of the situation. Overall, he noted that alot of people in many different sectors public and private are working together to address the pandemic. Innovation, creativity and an all hands on deck attitude is expected to make the difference.
“As we learn more, we will do things tomorrow that we cannot imagine today,” Dowling said.
Dowling noted that healthcare professional are changing policies and procedures in response to the crisis.
“We will be prepared and we will deal with this,” he said. “We work on very difficult issues all the time.”
Dowling expressed many forward-looking statements to deliver sentiments of hope.
“This is not going to be with us forever,” he said. “The next few weeks are very, very important.”
Individual responsibility is important, they said.
Go for a walk, shop for essentials, the speakers said, but keep at least six feet away from people and wipe things down.
No one would guess how long it would take to get through this. Dowling speculated that it could be months. The duration to a certain degree is dependent upon people’s ability to follow preventive measures such quarantining themselves as the situation dictates.
Suozzi closed the call with a sentiment of optimism.
“I’m going to get patriotic now,” he said. “The USA can figure this out!”
People who have been in contact with positive patient and patients with certain symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath, cough and body aches, sore throat, and no nasal congestion may be tested for COVID-19. To arrange for appointment at drive-thru tests sites, call 888-364-3065.
Important Takeaways From Q&A
- In New York, 770 people are now hospitalized with COVID-19.
- In New York, 7,000 people are being tested daily.
- Act as if you possibly have the illness and work to avoid spreading germs.
- If you are elderly, arrange for food and medicine deliveries. Have someone younger pick up supplies.
- If you live with an elderly person, sanitize surfaces frequently.
- Avoid contact with elderly.
- Pregnant women are not an at-risk group for COVID-19, health experts said.
- Wipe surfaces such as screens and shopping cart handles when shopping.
- If you show no symptoms, you will not be tested.
- Exposed and recovered COVID-19 patients can return to work in the healthcare profession.
- Hospital masks were manufactured In China. Production slowed or stopped. Everyone is now looking for them.
- Supply chain is changing for masks, respirators and medical supplies.