A New York state senator from the lower Hudson Valley held a teleconference town hall Thursday on the coronavirus with two health organizations. Constituent concerns ran the gamut. *This call preceded further guidance from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Trump's coronavirus address Friday.
Democratic state Senator David Carlucci hosted the call with officials from Crystal Run Healthcare and the Mental Health Association of Rockland County to connect residents with experts and address the stress of dealing with the outbreak. Originally a public forum, it was changed to a call to avoid risking the spread of the coronavirus. Roger, who did not give his last name, wanted to know how well equipped local hospitals are to handle an influx of patients with COVID-19. Plus:
“What about the testing kits? Are they still on hold? Does Governor Cuomo have a special lab, another lab, what’s the story?” Roger asks. “Are we testing less or more than other states?”
Senator Carlucci’s 38th District includes most of Rockland County and a piece of Westchester.
“The latest information we have is that New York state will contract with 28 private labs to increase the testing capacity for the coronavirus,” says Carlucci.
Janet Rothstein says she takes care of her elderly mother who has significant health issues. Rothstein wanted to know if there are specific guidelines for people in a high-risk category and are there supplies being made available for them. And she had another question.
“So, if she needs to go to the doctor for a regular kind of thing, the endocrinologist, the hematologist, something like that, there’s been very mixed messages about masks. I don’t know if I should be trying to get one for her,” Rothstein says. “You hear that the government is stockpiling them, and then you hear that the virus is so small it’s going to go through them anyway.”
Crystal Run Healthcare Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Arturo Pascual advised Rothstein to keep her mother’s doctor appointments.
“The mask is usually much more effective when it’s on the patient who is ill compared to the person who is not ill,” says Dr. Pascual
And he says Crystal Run, for example, has protocols in place to minimize coronavirus risk to patients. During the call, Dr. Pascual referred to statistics a few times.
“For the number of deaths we have from COVID-19 has been around 29 deaths to date, and the estimated deaths we have from the influenza from this season range from 12,000-60,000,” Dr. Pascual says. “It’s important to always keep that as context.”
Since, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 36 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,215 cases, as of Thursday afternoon. Velvet Reda is with the Mental Health Association of Rockland County.
“Don’t panic. Try and remain calm,” Reda says. “And as parents and educators and community members, our children our looking to us and they’re taking their lead from our response.”
“Hopefully, it’s not as deadly and dangerous of a disease as many others that are out there. And hopefully it’s a wakeup call to our government and society to say we have to prepare for all of these things, and it’s showing how unprepared the government and our community is to respond to some of these issues,” says Carlucci. “Now I think they’re doing a good job, but some of these long-term effects, like, hey, how do you do distance learning in the public schools, that’s a question that hasn’t been answered yet.”
Another caller, Andy, wanted to know if it’s safe to go to restaurants and order takeout.
“I’m more concerned about the person who is preparing the foods who might have the virus that would transfer that virus to the food that they’re preparing,” asks Andy. “So how long does the virus last if it gets transferred… First, can you get it from food and, secondly, if it’s transferred to food, how long does it last? Is it possible that that food could be transferred with the virus as you eat it?”
“So the COVID-10 virus can only be spread through respiratory, through a contact with respiratory epithelium. So for example, anything that touches the lining of your nose, your mouth, for example, like respiratory droplets. If you have food and you have the virus in there, there’s really no data that shows that ingesting the virus will cause an infection,” says Dr. Pascual. “What the data shows is that we, is that the virus can be spread really by respiratory droplets and contact, when you contact a contaminated surface and then you touch your face.”
Nurses from Nanuet–based Accucare Nursing and Homecare, which serves the Hudson Valley have concerns.
“If one of our patients becomes infected, do we continue to send nurses there, or is this automatic trip to the hospital?” a nurse asks.
Pascual said there is guidance from the CDC and local health departments.
“I don’t expect an answer today, but that’s one of the things that we are grappling with at Accucare,” the nurse says.
Carlucci chimed in with the state coronavirus hotline at 1-888-364-3065.