‘People are overworked and overwhelmed’: Doctor on the state of covid-19 in California hospitals
Dr. Otto Yang, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, discusses their thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic and the state of California with Julia La Roche and Adam Shapiro of Yahoo Finance, as in some cases there is another Rise is coming.
JULIA LA ROCHE: As the US grapples with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, California is particularly hard hit. I want dr Otto Yang, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Yang, thank you very much for joining us. Of course, a lot of people were talking about California and the vacation flood there.
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Can you contextualize what is happening in California regarding COVID-19 for our viewers?
OTTO YANG: Well, we have been hit by a flood of COVID cases that go way beyond anything we've seen before. And our hospitals are basically all full.
ADAM SHAPIRO: How is that for you personally? I mean, we can't imagine the horror.
OTTO YANG: I'm lucky because I'm more of a researcher. And I spend less time on the front lines than many of my colleagues. But the full-time doctors who see patients every day, and the nurses and respiratory therapists and all the staff in the hospitals, I think it's - it's a horrible experience for them, very stressful. Personnel is the limiting factor. We have enough rooms. We have enough fans. But staff, just us ... people are overworked and overwhelmed.
JULIA LA ROCHE: Dr. Yang, what do you attribute that to? Is this from the Thanksgiving vacation trip that people were warned about not to travel at that time and now we see that manifest, this timeline that was posted there. Is that what you really think about
OTTO YANG: I think that's a big factor. Yes, that and the relaxation of the guidelines that lead to Thanksgiving. And I also only think of people who get fatigue by following guidelines to distance, mask, and protect themselves.
ADAM SHAPIRO: What do your colleagues tell you about the ability? There are other problems that affect people medically. Do hospitals have the space to accommodate someone who, God forbid, may have cardiac arrest or other emergencies?
OTTO YANG: Of course, you have no choice but to take someone who is in such dire straits. But there is a big trickle effect, right. Therefore, elective surgery or procedure is delayed in order to save hospital space for sick patients. You know, we used to see cancers diagnosed or treated later when the hospitals got a little full.
And I think we're going to see a lot of the same and patients won't come in. Because they ... the hospitals are full and the clinics are closed.
JULIA LA ROCHE: Dr. Yang, if you were people watching, if you could share some kind of message or plea to the public, what would you say to them?
OTTO YANG: I would say listen to the people at the front, the doctors and the scientists, and take it seriously. It puzzles me that to this day there are still conspiracy theories and people who deny it and say it's like the flu. You know this is clearly not to be taken lightly.
And as a society we shouldn't find ourselves in a situation where we don't take something seriously unless it affects us personally. We need to think about it as a society. And that must be above politics. This must be independent of political beliefs or political feelings.
ADAM SHAPIRO: Now we see what the wave is after the Thanksgiving mistakes people made. And now we have people, over a million people, who have been traveling every day since last Thursday. How bad is this going to be in a few weeks after the Christmas break?
OTTO YANG: I'm afraid to even imagine it. But it is certain - it seems like we are well on the way that it will get a lot worse. Things have only accelerated further. And if the predictions of people traveling for Christmas and meeting for Christmas are correct, we shall see a wave as big as Thanksgiving. And that's really going to be a big problem.
And I think we'll see death rates go up. You know, every patient - one reason mortality has improved is because doctors know much better how to treat the disease. But when hospitals and hospital staff are overwhelmed, everything will go out the window. And death rates will rise dramatically.
JULIA LA ROCHE: You know, let's talk about what should be done to cut some of this down. Do we need more travel restrictions? What measures could help alleviate the situation in California?
OTTO YANG: Well, guidance from above would certainly be helpful. And that was a weak point in dealing with this pandemic, which unfortunately was particularly bad in this country. I think at this point we are on our own to some extent. And we have to take personal responsibility. So the basics haven't changed. So people are talking about how recommendations were flipped and the scientific data changed. That's actually not true.
The basics of how this virus has been the same since March in relation to what people have been saying. It's really the simple basics, right, so wearing a mask as much as possible, keeping physical distance, trying to keep events outside, avoiding crowded indoor spaces, avoiding meeting people in large groups. I mean these are really simple basics and based on what we understand about the virus and how it spreads.
JULIA LA ROCHE: Dr. Otto Yang, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, thank you for taking the time to wish you a happy and healthy Christmas and a New Year.
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