Dr. Andre Campbell, Professor of Surgery of UCSF & ICU Physician and Trauma Surgeon at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how the rise in COVID-19 cases is impacting hospitals in the state of California.
SEANA SMITH: Coronavirus cases surging across the US, and hospitalizations surpassing 90,000 for the first time, hitting a record for the 17th day in a row. For more on this, we want to bring in Dr. Andre Campbell. He’s a professor of surgery at University of California, San Francisco, also a trauma surgeon, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
And Dr. Campbell, great to have you on the program. More and more people, as we’ve seen from these numbers, being admitted to the hospitals. I’m curious just to give us insight just what the current situation is at your hospital and what the city of San Francisco is facing right now.
ANDRE CAMPBELL: Well, first of all, good morning, and thank you so much for having me. And belated happy Thanksgiving. So I’ll just say in California, we’ve had things a little bit different than the rest of the country. We’ve had ups and downs, but now we’re beginning to surge. So in my hospital, we have not had a tremendous surge as yet, although we’re sort of beginning the creeping up.
So we have approximately probably about 15 to 20 patients in our hospital with COVID, which is different than a lot of areas across country, certainly different than Southern California. Southern California is having cases at a much bigger rate. They’re having about 5,000 cases a day in Los Angeles. And they’re beginning to have a huge surge there.
Positivity rate is high, the number of cases are high. And it’s going up, which is giving us a pause because we’re all connected. And we’re all quite worried that the system will be overwhelmed with patients because the resources we have are just finite, but the number of patients we count can be infinite because COVID does not take a holiday. COVID-19 is with us all the time.
And we’re very worried about this travel that’s going on around Thanksgiving. 6 million people traveled in the last six days. That means that many more people will be exposed to different pods. And we told folks to stay at home and not move around, but what happened was people did the opposite, because it’s a normal thing for people to want to be with their families.
But we have to hold on because hope is coming. Vaccine is coming. But we can be facing an apocalypse by Christmas because of what is happening with respect to the numbers of cases going up high, higher than there is now. 90,000 is a lot, but what if we have 150,000? So there are those of us who take care of patients are really concerned about it.
MYLES UDLAND: And Dr. Campbell, I’m wondering where, in your view, the messaging kind of broke down. Because I was talking about this with someone last night. In March, we all understood that it was about keeping the strain on the hospital system lower.
And right now, it just seems that that part of the flatten or bend the curve conversation is just not really top of mind. And yet, as you’re outlining here, that is the entire project, right, to keep hospital resources available. Where did, to you, it seemed like that maybe got lost to most Americans?
ANDRE CAMPBELL: Well, I think that what happened was simple things, like wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands, that buried in a political discussion regarding, well, it’s my freedom to not wear a mask, but what happens is these common things all of a sudden became political. And when they become political, then it becomes much more charged as opposed to, let me protect you, I will protect us, and then kind of go from there.
So you have 266,000 deaths, and it’s projected to have, if we continue our trajectory, maybe at 350,000 deaths. And I think the breakdown has been things have been a little bit more politicized than they should be. It should be not political to wear a mask. If you wear a mask, it protects me, it protects you.
But everybody says, well, masks don’t work, things are bad. Now I am a surgeon and wear a mask all the time, right? In fact, now I wear two masks and a face shield all the time when I’m at work. And I can breathe fine, and there’s no problems with that. But I’m just telling you that what happened was, there was a breakdown in March.
So the hospital systems in New York got totally overwhelmed. And that’s why so many people died. Over north of 33,000 people died in New York state because things were overwhelmed. The specter of having refrigeration trucks holding the remains of our loved ones, or your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, was shocking to us.
And I think that what happened was part of the country felt like they were spared. But the reality is, is they were spared at that time, but right now, things are on fire. The case rate in North Dakota is 150 per 100,000 people. In California, it’s 31 per 100,000 people. That’s because we have 41 million people here.
So the case positivity rate is going up, right, from what it was before. So these are things that we all worry about as we move forward because help’s on the way, but we have to hold out. And people have not been following simple directions. And that’s been a problem.
SEANA SMITH: Dr. Campbell, it almost seems like this is a crisis within a crisis. As we get more and more people, more and more patients who have been infected with COVID, who have been– they call themselves long hauler. So they have these lasting symptoms once they’re cured by COVID. They’re still dealing with some of these aftereffects. How does this complicate doctors’ ability to give care and really help those who are suffering for weeks and months after?
ANDRE CAMPBELL: So that is an interesting thing. So what happened was, if you think about it like this, the virus is like a bomb that goes off in your system. It turns on inflammation. It targets the lungs, the joints, the heart, the brain, the blood circulation, causing blood clots. So a lot of things happen clearly that can lead to your death.
Now what happens is, if you’re recovering, we’re getting better with remdesivir, with steroids, with the antibodies that have been given even to the president. So things are getting better with that, right? But what happens is, once you recover, people still have problems with respect to being tired, with not being able to walk.
So for example, if you’re a distance runner and you’ve been running miles, all of a sudden, you can’t walk two blocks. So what has happened is, is there’s a bunch of rehabilitation physicians and primary care doctors who are working on trying to figure out what this is.
There’s a clinic now that was started at New York University Hospital where they’re trying to figure out exactly what the symptoms are that are related and how we can affect these symptoms and make them better. But we’re still learning things even nine months into this pandemic, which is a 100-year pandemic, from what it was before. We’re learning, every day, things.
The long hauler is the second shoe to drop. The acute phase, the hospitalization, the overwhelming of nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists is one phase. And the first thing in the second phase is, once you recover, even if you have a mild case, you can be a long hauler. So we need to learn more information, collect data so we can understand how we could get through this because we’re still learning things about this virus, the COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, every single day.