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Experts Cite Key Issues on Rise of Covid-19 Cases

There is news of increasing Covid-19 cases in Florida and other states. Stony Brook Medicine experts weigh in on why this is happening and what practices are necessary to limit a pandemic spread. Each is available to speak with media:

Bettina Fries, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases

All countries have seen cases after reopening, the question is if baseline tracking and contact tracing is efficient and fast enough from letting things get out of hand. Florida has an older population and youngsters who don’t comply at all with social distancing. This is a bad combination. Also some states may not be stringently checking healthcare providers.

Susan Donelan, MD, Medical Director, Healthcare Epidemiology Department

A pandemic does not care about the weather, as long as people ignore tried and true mechanisms of control there will be an increase in cases. It takes about four weeks in general to see an actual bump in hospitalizations because you have to get enough cases to have people sick enough to require hospitalization, an easier metric to capture to gauge the severity of increasing Covid-19 cases.

Sharon Nachman, MD, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases

A rise in cases is all about the habits of people — no masks and no social distancing will lead to an increase in Covid-19 cases.

Jaymie Meliker, PhD, Professor of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine 

My feeling is that this is the beginning of a bounce back now that people are socializing more. We now know the NY cases started at the end of January. It took 6-7 weeks for cases to take hold, and we weren’t doing anything to slow it down and were spending time indoors where it circulates more readily.

These states are experiencing the normal spread of the virus when social distancing is diminished. This will happen everywhere in the US. We do not have adequate contact tracing to have a success story like Germany. Hopefully it will still be slow enough not to overwhelm the hospitals although Phoenix may be showing that not to be true.

Sean Clouston, PhD, Assistant Professor of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine

One likely reason for a spike of Covid-19 cases in states is that they did not have a large epidemic to start, and then they reopened without implementing strong case-tracking and quarantining efforts. Weather probably isn’t a factor in the sense that warmer weather protects from viral spread. We had our first wave in NY when it was cold, Florida is having their wave now, while it’s hot. However, weather may matter in that people in the cold in New York stay indoors, while people in the summer in the South stay indoors (with AC) and that could increase risk a lot.

The goal of the lockdown was to have federal and local governments develop a response to the pandemic. That response should have been 1) effective contact tracing, 2) quarantining guidelines for people who are sick, 3) ramping up of testing in order to control, 4) rules and regulations about how to interact safely (i.e., with masks, outside, etc.), 5) a federal response to guide rolling shutdowns to control epidemic curves. I think that has happened in New York to some extent, though masking still seems to be an issue, and wearing masks seems to have been ignored by many in other states now experiencing increased cases.

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