By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Almost every day it seems that there’s a change regarding COVID-19 or coronavirus. With so much information being given, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) recognized that the influx of information wasn’t necessarily helping people, so it decided to do something about it.
Earlier this week, MCW held a virtual town meeting on the topic of COVID-19. Cory Nettles, who is chair of the board for MCW, said that the goal of the town hall meetings is to provide real time information and data to the community.
During the meeting, each of the panelists took a few minutes to share some information on coronavirus and after community members had an opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns.
Dr. John Raymond, the president and CEO of MCW, said that coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than the flu. The virus is spread through touch and droplets such as spit. It can enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth.
Therefore, it is highly recommended to thoroughly wash one’s hands for at least 20 seconds and to avoid touching the face.
Social distancing also helps prevent the spread.
As of Monday, April 6, Milwaukee has a total of 1256 positive cases and Wisconsin a total of 2440. The daily growth rate in Milwaukee is 13.5% and the number of days it takes for the number of cases to double is currently 5.15 days.
“We need to work hard to continue to stop the spread,” Raymond said.
Dr. Joyce Sanchez, who specializes in infectious disease, said handwashing is the most important tool in one’s kit as it destroys the virus. It also helps to clean countertops and doorknobs, which people touch daily.
Sanchez added that in the past few days, a recommendation was made for people to start wearing masks. She said that a cloth mask will suffice and that N95 respirators should be saved for healthcare workers and first responders.
The mask should cover the mouth and nose and be worn while in public. It can be made of cloth, but a scarf or bandana works too. MCW advised that the mask should not be touched while in public and to wash one’s hands before and after putting on the mask.
“I believe they [masks] are helpful,” said Raymond. “It’s a barrier to prevent the spread of infection.”
Dr. Ian Martin, the system chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at MCW, spoke about the symptoms of coronavirus and testing prioritization.
The symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath. If someone is experiencing symptoms, he or she should call his or her doctor or call 211. It’s important that the person not go to a clinic or emergency room before talking with a doctor or nurse.
“Some people may show no symptoms at all which is why its important to maintain physical distance,” Martin said.
Martin said due to the shortage of tests, there is now a priority list. First on the list are hospitalized patients and healthcare facility workers with symptoms. Second is patients in long-term care facilities with symptoms, patients 65 years old and older with symptoms, patients with underlying conditions with symptoms and first responders with symptoms. Third is any individual with symptoms and fourth is individuals with no symptoms.
During the questionnaire portion of the meeting, a community member asked about the antibody test. Raymond said that while MCW can perform the antibody test it is not as effective as the virus test.
Dr. Jeanette Kowalik, the health commissioner for the City of Milwaukee, was also on the panel. She said that Milwaukee saw its first case on Friday, March 13 and that from week one to week two, the city saw a massive growth rate. As of week four, she noted things have started to slow down.
Raymond said that Milwaukee is likely to reach its peak in the number of cases in seven to 10 days.
One viewer asked about the potential for a curfew. Sanchez said her family is Puerto Rico has a curfew and while it’s effective it’s much more aggressive.
“Curfews can be very effective whatever you can do to restrict congregation,” Kowalik said, adding that it’s not out of the question.
Right now, Milwaukee is trying to flatten the curve, but smashing the curve is also a possibility. Kowalik said to do so would involve a forced stay at home order for at least five weeks that requires no movement.
Another person asked how Milwaukee plans to address health disparities in communities of color. Kowalik said there are groups of people who have chronically been disenfranchised and that is playing out currently.
Kowalik said there needs to be a financial investment in these communities and an investment in the health of these communities. Currently, the city is looking at what investments and resources it can provide right now and what it can do after.
MCW is planning to host a second town hall meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 13 and a third at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 20. To register for the meeting click this link https://cor.vc/mcw-community-townhall-202004.