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Dr. Latonya Washington, President of Bluff City Medical Society, answers questions about the coronavirus

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, Dr. Washington emphasizes things everyone needs to do to slow it down

MEMPHIS, Tennessee —

Questions continue to arise regarding the coronavirus. Dr. Latonya Washington, President of Bluff City Medical Society, answers some frequently asked questions about COVID-19. Her remarks follow:

The way that we stop the spread of the virus is that we don't interact with others. This novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19, is a very serious illness. It's very important that we don't spread the virus.

There has been a multitude of recommendations from government officials, from health officials regarding not spreading the virus. This is why we've also seen recommendations by our Mayor, Mayor Strickland, for the safer at home initiative.

This is very important. The way that we stop the spread of the virus is that we don't interact with others and use contact to spread illness.

Right now, we know that the coronavirus is transmitted by droplets. The importance of that is at any time you sneeze or cough or even talk, you spread droplets from your mouth out to the public. In efforts to do that. That's why we've seen the recommendations for six feet of distance between one person and the next in order to decrease that transmission.

That has also been the reason why we have been asked to restrict our movement. We also have knowledge that the virus particles can live on surfaces for an extended amount of time. That means car doors, door knobs, counter tops, things like that. When we shake hands with others, when we pick up various objects, if droplets have had an opportunity to settle on those objects, then that can be a potential midas for infection.

We certainly want to reduce the transmission of the virus. That is the way we are able to stop it. Other countries have been somewhat successful in that. That is why you are hearing a lot of information regarding flattening the curve.

Based on statistics, we're able to estimate the number of people affected by this coronavirus infection as well as the number of deaths of coronavirus infection. The reason to decrease the transmission is that we don't want people to get sick nor do we want people to die.

Healthcare workers are really risking their lives on a day to day basis caring for patients with coronavirus infection. You've seen the stories on the news out of the major metropolitan areas such as New York and Chicago where healthcare workers are really stretched to the max.

Many have said that they don't have appropriate protective equipment and oftentimes, it's difficult to even assess which patients are infected with coronavirus and which ones are not because many patients are asymptomatic.

We've seen a lot of reports recently regarding healthcare workers who have been sick. There have been reports out of New Orleans that said that upwards of 300 hospital employees were either sick with the infection or on quarantine.

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We know that that can cause really strapped resources for healthcare facilities. We want to make sure that when patients come in and they're ill that we're able to provide them appropriate care. So, it's very important as healthcare workers that we are able to protect ourselves from getting coronavirus but also protect patients that we're treating on a day to day basis. We don't want to infect those patients with coronavirus if they don't already have it.

The current recommendations are that if you feel sick really at any capacity at this point that you should call your doctor's office to ask for advice as far as what you should do.

A lot of healthcare facilities are really strained at this time. We really want to be able to care for patients appropriately.

If you feel that you may have a symptom of coronavirus, it's very important that you call your healthcare provider prior to arriving. Many times, these clinics and facilities will have someone to meet you at the door. They will provide you with a mask to wear.

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Sometimes they may obtain the coronavirus testing swab from you outside the facility, so that you don't come inside and infect others potentially with coronavirus infection. This is for the safety of you in case you don't have coronavirus and someone inside their facility does as well as the safety of others. If you have coronavirus, they don't want you to go into these particular facilities and spread the disease.

One thing you will see now is that pretty much any healthcare setting you go into most of the healthcare providers will be masked. They will be wearing either a surgical mask or an N 95 mask. Usually they will have gloves and they may have a gown too. The reason for that is to protect themselves and to protect you from transmitting the coronavirus infection or acquiring the coronavirus infection.

I would recommend that you call your healthcare provider prior to going into the office to be seen. Even if you feel like you need to go to the emergency department if it's a non-critical setting, if you're going to call EMS or call 911, then most certainly do that.

But if you're driving yourself into the emergency department, then I still recommend you call ahead to let them know what your symptoms are. Maybe they can give you pointers. We certainly don't want patients who may have coronavirus to be sitting in the waiting areas potentially infecting other patients. We are really very mindful about that during this time of this pandemic.

I currently live and work here in Memphis. I will tell you that there are several facilities within the Memphis area that have had coronavirus positive patients and they've had several persons under investigation.

They have various data programs that tell us they anticipate that the surge of coronavirus cases here in the Memphis area should arrive sometime around the time between April 19 and April 26. We are preparing ourselves for that.

We're really in a time of preparation. That means attempting to get patients out of the hospital in a timely fashion. If they don't need to be in the hospital to prepare for the surge. In the local emergency departments, all of the local providers, physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists that you see in those areas will have on masks. They will have on gloves. They will have on eye goggles with eye shields. These virus particles really can live on surfaces for an extended period of time. The mode of infection is that they enter through your mucus membrane meaning your eyes, your nose, your mouth. In efforts to cover those things as healthcare providers, so that we are not transmitting from one patient to the next.

Every hospital at this time is making sure that they have enough equipment to be ready for the surge. That includes personal protective equipment. By that, those are items that we would wear as health care professionals to protect others. We also want to make sure that we have enough ventilators. We've seen in multiple news stories from hot spot cities like New York, Chicago, New Orleans that we really want to make sure that we have enough ventilators in place for patients when they need them.

Also, being able to retrofit and modify spaces that are currently in the hospital that may not be used to treating ICU level care patients to be able to do those things. That's really what we're seeing currently in the Memphis area. A lot of health care providers again are in a period of preparation. We're solidifying our hospital processes to reduce the number of infections and transmission and making sure that we can deliver effective care to all the patients involved.