“The worst is yet to come” was one of the key takeaways from a COVID-19 telebriefing by a panel of medical experts in San Francisco on Friday, March 27. The panel of experts was organized by Ethnic Media Services and sponsored by Blue Shield of California Foundation. Why rural regions are at risk
The United States, currently leading the world in the number of people infected with the coronavirus, is at the crest of fully experiencing the pandemic, a panel of medical experts and community health advocates told reporters. Those U.S. numbers eclipsed 362,995 cases and 10,735 deaths; California’s cases 15,823 and 372 deaths as of Monday, April 6, according to the CDC.
The prognosis of the experts was that the U.S. is at the threshold of fully experiencing the pandemic COVID-19 crisis. The panel of healthcare expert advocates featured two physicians speaking from the front lines of the global crisis: Tung Nguyen, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and Daniel Turner-Lloveras, MD, of Harbor UCLA Medical Clinic. Why rural regions are at risk
A large percentage of the immigrant community relies on public health facilities, Turner-Lloveras said, but don’t to seek care until it’s an emergency because of fear of deportation or revealing personal information that could bring attention of ICE on a family member. About 43 percent of undocumented immigrants have no health insurance, said Turner-Lloveras. Why rural regions are at risk
“We cannot contain a virus outbreak by providing care to only some of the population,” he said. “We cannot successfully contain an outbreak if there are those among us who are afraid to seek care.”
Nguyen said he has “never seen doctors so scared by an infection. We could be looking at a million infections by next week and four million by next month.” Why rural regions are at risk
“The virus is deadly: 15 to 45 of every 1,000 infected people will die of a COVID-19 related illness,” Nguyen said, noting that the elderly are particularly vulnerable. “No vaccine exists for the disease, and the U.S. is still 12 to 18 months away from developing one.”
The CDC issued a warning this week to rural counties. Like their urban counterparts, rural counties are ill-equipped to treat a dramatic rise in infections.
Public health advocate Rishi Manchanda, MD, MPH, was also a panelist, and he has worked in South Central Los Angeles low-income communities. He told reporters that the pandemic disproportionately affects the economic well being of people of color and the immigrant community as well as their health. Why rural regions are at risk
“It’s hard to not work for many communities of color. Lower wages and insufficient insurance coverage limits their access to treatment and often forces them to work even while ill, increasing the risk of exposure to the community,” Manchanda said. “And members of ethnic communities often work in front-facing jobs, such as grocery-store clerks, and take public transportation to get to jobs, resulting in higher rates of exposure.”
Manchanda added that limited access to testing, language barriers, and underlying illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease disproportionately affect certain minorities, put immigrants and minorities at greater risk of infection and death.
Just stay home
“You need to just stay home,” Nguyen stressed. “The most effective methods to steer clear of the virus are social isolation and avoiding touching objects and surfaces. For communities of color and immigrants who tend to live in multi-generational households, it’s imperative that people who must leave the household for work wash up and change clothes afterward, before engaging with their families again. “
The virus may be in the air for up to three hours. It can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on plastic and steel for 72 hours, the UCSF physician said. Why rural regions are at risk
New York City is currently experiencing the worst of the pandemic, Turner-Lloveras said, and its overloaded hospitals lack medical supplies to treat all ill patients. California hospitals, which had an extra week to prepare, may be better-equipped to manage the surge. They are trying to triage appropriately, using telemedicine and other resources to avoid a crush of people coming in all at once.
Editor’s note: This article was written by Sumitra Sohrabi, EMS reporter and made available to media outlets by Ethnic Media Services on Monday, March 30.