Last week the White House unveiled his 3-phase plan as a form of guidance for governors to use to decide whether or not to lift social distancing restrictions in their respective states. Some governors are working separate from the federal government towards plans that would reopen their state’s economies in phases as well. President Trump’s “aspirational goal” is May 1.
But Dr. Rob Davidson, an ER doctor in west Michigan, is troubled by these talks, given that the number of coronavirus cases are still growing.
“Here in west Michigan, we have not hit our peak yet,” he said on Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM (video above). “And in fact, just three days ago, we’re finally able to test every person who comes in with symptoms of COVID-19. That’s a new phenomenon now — three months after the first case. So, I’m extremely concerned with all the talk of charging ahead with reopening when we truly do not have a grasp of how many cases are actually out there.”
There are more than 32,000 cases of coronavirus in Michigan, putting it in the top 5 states in the U.S. with the highest case count. Overall in the U.S., there are over 780,000 cases of coronavirus, with over 2 million cases worldwide.
“It’s extremely concerning,” Davidson said. “In my small community, a county of 48,000 people, we have a critical access hospital, 25 in-patient beds, I’m the only doctor on at night. We have one respiratory therapist on for the 12-hour overnight shift.”
He continued: “And if we start opening things up while cases are increasing or if they haven’t been decreasing for the full two weeks that pretty much every public health expert recommends as a baseline function to start reopening, I worry it could very quickly lead to our hospital being overwhelmed. We’re already resourced limited just on a regular basis, let alone if we have a massive surge of people requiring critical care.”
Davidson isn’t the only to be hesitant about reopening society. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that nearly 60% of voters fear lifting coronavirus restrictions too soon. However, there was a sharp partisan divide — 77% of Democrats worry about opening too quickly, versus only 38% of Republicans.
The idea behind social distancing and stay-at-home orders is that this can help contain the spread of the coronavirus and flatten the curve so that hospitals around the country don’t get overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 patients.
“We’re seeing limited supplies on all aspects,” Davidson said. “We have actually enough capacity but I know within our hospital system in West Michigan, swabs are an issue… I think we’re running maybe on a three or four day going forward supply of swabs to the point we could run out. So the folks in charge of the supply chains are just scrambling every day to stay ahead of the need.”
‘Probably putting the cart ahead of the horse’
Another argument against reopening society is the issue of asymptomatic carriers — people who could have the virus without showing symptoms but could still spread it to other vulnerable individuals.
Davidson said this needs to get under control through vigorous initial testing before any talks of antibody testing, which some have touted as a way to reopen the economy.
“We’re probably putting the cart ahead of the horse when we’re talking about antibody testing because we are so far behind when it comes to just simply diagnosing the disease, finding those asymptomatic carriers, having the capacity to trace contacts and isolate contacts so we can actually put down the hotspots before they really get going,” he said.
Once that is finally accomplished, which Davidson said could take two to four weeks after identifying all of the cases and noticing a downtrend, that is when antibody testing can be brought to the forefront.
And although there have been talks about various types of COVID-19 testing, Davidson said that those on the front lines just want one test in “ample” supply.
“I feel like we’re chasing shiny objects all around during these [press] briefings and no one’s nailing them down on at least tripling or more of the capacity that we need to achieve before we even think about phase one of the reopening plan,” he said.
Adriana is a reporter and editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.