In response to the coronavirus, Mount Sinai South Nassau Dr. Aaron Glatt urged residents to practice social distancing and cautioned that anyone who thinks the disease should not be taken seriously is gravely mistaken.
“This is not fake news,” Glatt said during a Facebook Live presentation on Thursday. “This is not something that anybody can ignore or dismiss. This is as serious a medical healthcare crisis that we have faced.”
Glatt, MSSN’s Department of Medicine chairman, sat with Joe Calderone, the hospital’s senior vice president of communications, to discuss precautions residents should take and to field their questions via Facebook.
Hours earlier, County Executive Laura Curran said there were 293 confirmed coronavirus cases in Nassau. During his session, Glatt noted that health officials have estimated that the peak for the U.S. may not be met for another 45 days.
“It’s a very scary number that we haven’t come anywhere near the peak yet, and it’s going to be continuously rising in the number of cases,” he said. “Unfortunately, every day that is coming true and that’s why I want to stress the single most important thing that everybody can do is to really understand what social distancing means. That’s the buzzword of 2020. That will be the word of the year.”
Glatt said that any non-essential meetings between two or more people should be stopped, and that those who must interact should remain six feet apart from one another. He added that the illness is not overblown, and that people should change their habits accordingly. He said people are permitted to go outside for walks, but they should do so by themselves and keep a safe distance from others.
As far as those who think they might be sick, Glatt said they should assess themselves and determine how sick they are before going to see a doctor. He said if they exhibit similar symptoms to the coronavirus, including a fever and trouble breathing, they should contact their physician on the phone before going in. If they have symptoms that are similar to that of the common cold, he recommended that they stay home and self-quarantine, but noted that they do not need to be tested for the virus. A lot of people who have come to the hospital thinking that they had the coronavirus had the flu, Glatt added.
Glatt also addressed the reports that the disease is deadlier among older people, and said that while that is true, there have been young people who have died from the disease. He referenced a study that there were no deaths in children under 10 in China, and that 90 percent of children were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, but one 14-year-old died from the illness. Another study in Italy showed that the country has a severe problem among its older population and the data suggests that people above 80 who contract the virus are more at risk. He said that those who do not have symptoms should still stay away from older people, including their relatives.
“Kids and grandparents need to separate,” Glatt said. “Every decade going up [in age] puts you at slightly more risk. You can get a serious case of the disease, even in younger people.”
Glatt said the virus has caused the hospital to implement many changes as patient cases rapidly increase. He noted that many of the rooms have been repurposed to fit more beds in order to meet needs and the hospital has stopped elective surgeries. On Tuesday, MSSN announced the death of its first coronavirus patient, an 83-year-old man from Queens, and a day later, it instituted a no visitor policy. Glatt cautioned that information about COVID-19 changes swiftly, but the advice he gave residents on Thursday was the best to his knowledge as of that time.
As for those who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and then felt better, Glatt said not everyone has to get re-tested because tests are at a minimum. He said those who are at least seven days removed from being diagnosed and have not felt symptoms for three days will likely no longer be considered contagious, but it is a case by case basis.
Glatt said every pandemic is different and the coronavirus has caused many people to make changes in their lives, but he said eventually things will be normal again, though the community has to heed the advice of health officials.
“The most important message is we’re going to get through this,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of pain and suffering, but we’re going to get through this. And everyone has to understand that they play a part in this.”