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Experts share reasons for fear, hope as part of News 8 health spotlight on coronavirus

News 8’s “Coping with Coronavirus” special

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — For almost an hour, News 8 took an in-depth look at the coronavirus pandemic and how to stop its spread.

It was a wide-ranging discussion involving medical professionals, school administrators and government employees who shared reasons for fear and reasons for hope as they explored a number of facets about COVID-19.

From the outset, the special Health 8 Spotlight focused on coping with the coronavirus took on a unique look as each expert sat the recommended six feet from each other and the anchors were on the opposite side of the room.

Recap from News 8 special “Coping with Coronavirus”

“I am very, very concerned,” said Dr. Ram Yeleti, the chief physician executive with Community Health Network.

“We know that there’s some vulnerable people in our city and it is our job as a community to look out for them,” said Dr. Graham Carlos, the chief of medicine and pulmonary critical care at Eskenazi Health.

First — the bad news from the experts.

Even if we do everything right, getting through the worst of the coronavirus, it looks like an 8-10 week process. And so far, everything has not been done right.

Among the issues, not enough test kits yet and people not quarantining themselves as recommended.

“We’re going toward a surge,” said Dr. Yeleti. “We’re nowhere near flattening the curve right now. I hate to say it because we don’t have enough tests to know.”

Plus there have been too many people with the wrong mindset who see this as just another illness, just an inconvenience that can’t hurt them, leading to even some key medical supplies like masks running low for doctors.

The panel says it’s far more than that. In fact, fighting this battle is the right terminology.

“We’re fighting a war and the problem with fighting a war is the front line people that are fighting the war are those people in the hospital,” said Dr. Yeleti. “The masks are our guns so we need these to protect people so we can fight were we need to fight.”

Doctors add this coronavirus is different. First, it seems to be more contagious than other bugs, even the flu.

Second, perhaps more dangerous, people can be sick and spread the virus before they ever show symptoms. The three big symptoms are a cough, fever and shortness of breath.

The experts said while 20% of cases so far seem to involve someone touching a surface with the virus on it, 80% come directly from people in the form of respiratory droplets like coughs or sneezes.

“If you’ve had a flu test or coronavirus negative test, doesn’t mean 2-3 days later you can’t go in contact one of them with the virus so don’t get complacent,” said Dr. Carlos.

There was a few lighter moments too.

“I couldn’t find toilet paper in my grocery store so I don’t know what this fascination with toilet paper,” said Dr. Virginia Caine with a laugh, the director of the Marion County Public Health Department.

But Dr. Caine said you should have two week’s supply of food, water and medications so you don’t have to leave the house if required.

“Don’t be taking months and just taking as much as you can,” she said. “That’s really not fair to all of our other residents.”

That’s the message Wednesday.

We’re in this together, even our children. Don’t assume they aren’t aware of what’s going on and the fear and uncertainty in your heart.

“As parents we need to make sure we’re keeping the lines of communication open,” said Aleesia Johnson, the Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools. “We are being calm, we are providing factual information, we are reassuring them that we’re all working together to solve what is a really big problem but it’s solvable if we all do our part.”

But that’s the hope.

As more testing comes, one million this week, hopefully millions more next week, it is solvable.

It’s a message demonstrated by competitors sharing a stage, working together for weeks, actually in ways that have never been done before, a spotlight that doctors hope makes a difference.

“I think it should show the community we’re all united in our efforts,” said Dr. Carlos.

“Oh it makes an enormous difference because they can see everything happening nationally but they want to know what’s happening in my own community,” said Dr. Caine.

The doctors pointed out that Italy has been overwhelmed by the coronavirus yet has more doctors and hospital beds per capita than the United States. They said the surge of Americans testing positive is resembling their numbers, not other countries like South Korea which have succeeded in flattening the curve.

If you believe you have the virus, as long as your symptoms are moderate, the advice is to stay home, quarantine yourself, take over-the-counter medications and wait until you’re symptom-free for 24-48 hours before going to see your doctor.

“Our hospitals, our medchecks and our doctor’s offices are getting very full with so many other patients we wouldn’t have space for everybody and if you go there and you have COVID-19, you will infect other people,” said Dr. Yeleti.

A lot of people, especially the young and healthy, don’t seem to be taking it seriously.

More than saving a life of perhaps a senior or someone with a compromised immune system, here’s one selfish reason the doctors gave why you should heed the restrictions.

If you’re one of them, it’s true, you may not need to see a doctor at the emergency room, but if the health care system becomes overwhelmed and you get appendicitis or are in a bad car crash or get some illness like pneumonia, it may be your life on the line as doctors and nurses deal with other patients before you.