face masks

Speaking nearly simultaneously, Thursday, from opposite sides of the state, two doctors pleaded with Louisiana residents to wear masks, wash their hands and socially distance themselves.

Dr. G.E. Ghali, the chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport, said in a news briefing from Baton Rouge that, pending a viable vaccine, masks will be part of the new normal.

He noted that, in his region, there is a positive COVID-19 test rate of between 12 percent and 15 percent. The federally recommended level is less than 10 percent. As of July 24, the state’s average positive test rate was 14.34 percent and it continues to climb.

The Caddo/Bossier region has nearly as many COVID-19 patients in the hospital as were there during the last peak at 70, with 20 on ventilators on April 8.

Ghali said that, while his region is not out of beds, there is a huge shortage of nurses. “We could use another 100, 150 nurses easily,” he said.

Ghali attributes the rising case numbers to large gatherings and disregard for the executive order issued by Edwards. He said the notion that people shouldn’t wear masks is “ridiculous.”

An infectious disease physician at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital made similar observations at a news conference in Lake Charles. Dr. Carlos Choucino said prior to Memorial Day, LCMH enjoyed several days with no COVID-19 patients. “After Memorial Day and after the Fourth of July, as of last week, we have 58,” he said. There is usually a two-week lag between an event and when a person shows up in the hospital.

Choucino said Southwest Louisiana never showed “a real flattening of the curve.” He said if the upward trend continues, health care providers and hospitals will be overwhelmed.

“This (COVID-19) is like a wildfire,” Choucino said. “If we let it grow wild, it’s going to burn us all. But if we burn with control, we should be in a better position,” he said. “Data from the west coast shows that wearing a mask, if you are infected, decreases the chances of you transmitting it to someone else by 90 percent, which is quite significant.” He said wearing mask reduces the chances of getting COVID-19 from an infected person by 30 percent.

Choucino had a message for those who  are unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition or another reason. “If you cannot wear a mask, you should not go outside your house,” he said. “Because you will be putting yourself in severe danger of getting infected.”

Choucino said COVID-19 is a public health issue not a political issue. “We should not make this political. We should be guided by science and if science is telling us masking is what we need to do, we should cooperate,” he said.

He cautioned that if people continue to gather with no protection, and then expose elder relatives to their germs, the virus will remain at high levels. “And the only thing we’re going to see is an increase in the deaths,” he said.

Treatment

According to the FDA there is not one single medication approved by the FDA for either the prevention of the disease or the treatment of the disease. In order to get the FDA seal of approval requires some very rigorous testing that has not been able to be done because of the pandemic.

There was a lot of euphoria about hydroxychloroquine. It has been shown now that hydroxychloroquine not only does not prevent disease it is not helpful in the treatment of mild to moderate disease and used in high doses, could put the patient at risk for serious cardiovascular consequences that include death. So hydroxychloroquine is out of the picture as of now.

He said the medications those who test positive should take are the same as those taken for the flu: chicken soup, Tylenol, Motrin and Advil.

Choucino warned against taking high levels of zinc or Vitamin D or Vitamin C. He said higher doses than normal of Vitamin D or zinc for an extended period of time, side effects like anemia or neurological disfunction can occur and could be permanent.

There are treatments being administered in hospitals that have not yet been approved by the FDA. “You go by what has been the practice for a while and you learn from the experience of other people,” Choucino said.

Remdesivir, orginally used to treat Ebola, has been used in COVID patients in the early stages of their infection. The medicine does not work on those who require oxygen, a ventilator or dialysis. The steroid Dexamethasone is being used to treat COVID-19 patients on oxygen. It is not recommended for those who do not require oxygen.

Ghali said his teaching hospital was the first in the state to administer convalescent plasma as a treatment. The plasma is taken from someone who has recovered from COVID-19 and has antibodies that will help those who are critically ill to fight the virus. He said 25 patients have received the plasma. “We were the third program in the United States to do that,” he said. “It’s helping. So I encourage those of you that have recovered from COVID-19, and that are healthy, to please consider donating your plasma to this cause.”