By Frances Wang

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – From how America is doing in fighting the coronavirus to dispelling some annoying myths about the disease, FIU’s Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Aileen Marty took the time to speak with CBS4’s Frances Wang on Sunday.

The first topic of discussion was about Dr. Anthony Fauci addressing how many Americans could die from COVID-19 — and then it got real.

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Here’s the question and answer with Dr. Marty.

Q: Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday morning that as many as 200,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus and that we are going to have millions of cases – will it really get to that point?

A: The original models, if we had not applied any of the public health measures, showed we would be losing over a million people. We’re down to 200,000 because of the current level of public health measures being applied. We could get lower than that. We could have less deaths if we applied all of the public health measures.

Q: Florida now has more than 4200 cases and according to data from the Florida Department of Health, most of those cases are in the 45-54 range. The number of cases in the 25-34 age demo are the same as the 65-74 range – what does this mean for young people?

A: The people 65 and older took the information provided to heart and curbed a lot of their activities, started taking actions that would benefit their survival, whereas the information as it was originally broadcast, led young people to think they were immune, which no one is.

Q: On Saturday, Florida saw its biggest jump so far: 737 new cases. Is this solely because of more testing being available, or do you feel the virus is still spreading even though people are social distancing and curfews are in effect right now in places like the city of Miami?

A: People don’t understand that the entire thing has a lag time. It takes time between when you are infected and when you show symptoms and when you get tested and when you get your result. It is partially the testing, but the truth is we’re still seeing an increase in cases because of when the public health measures were instigated. And we’re still not doing all the measures we should be.

Q: What else can we do? A lot of people in Florida have called for the Governor to shut down the state like the Governors of California and New York have done.

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A: All the sheltering in place and social distancing is fabulous but it’s only half of the equation, only a small part of what we need to do. What else do we need to do? China, Korea, Singapore showed us: we have to identify every case. We can’t just test the more severe cases. We have to identify, isolate, and test every single contact of every case. The other thing we’re doing wrong we keep sending people home who have these milder cases, where there are other family members. So the other family members almost invariably end up incubating and getting sick. That’s a big problem.

Q: The US is now leading the world in confirmed coronavirus case – even surpassing China, whose population is 4 times the size of the US and the country where this virus originated – what went wrong?

A: We are really soaring in our cases because we dragged our feet. We didn’t take it as seriously as we should have. Many levels of government, the media, not you, but other media downplayed this enormously. The misinformation that got out on social media as well. All of that, the problems with testing protocol, and our way of life – such a wonderful thing normally is against us right now. We’re not using all the tools; we simply are not using all the tools that we have to our disposal to get this over with.

Q: Speaking of misinformation on social media, what would you like to clear up?

A: Let’s start with masks. Because there’s so much community spread, it might behoove us all to make it socially acceptable to wear a mask on the assumption we are contaminated and for the sake of protecting others. It isn’t very useful for protecting yourself, but useful to spread to others. Another thing is this myth that only the older people are going to get sick. We’re seeing as the numbers rise, even those 18 or under basically children, somewhere between 2.4-3% get sick. And if you have that many more people, well those are going to be that many numbers going to be sick. No one is completely immune from this and there’s a lot of different reasons why everyone has to pay attention to this.

A: I would love to see the President take the Defense Production Act to another level. I’m very glad that finally, it’s being applied to the creation of ventilators because somehow that need has become apparent. I think something that would be really amazing is if they applied that to hotels and cruise ships, to use those as places we can keep people isolated while they’re shedding the virus, so people with mild and moderate disease and contacts could be kept there away from family members. It could be paid for with that $2 trillion dollars that just came out, so hotel and cruise ships wouldn’t lose any money. I think it’s a shame to set up ICU in garage spaces, when there’s perfectly good spaces. Another way to use the Defense Production Act is to get pharmaceutical companies to get the products we need, especially now was it’s becoming more apparent that certain inexpensive drugs could be extremely beneficial in curbing the outbreak.

Q: For the people who are comparing COVID-19 to the flu and saying that the flu is more deadly, what do you say to those people?

A: That misinformation is part of what certain news elements put out there and they’re still doing it, these individuals that do that are really very bad people. They either don’t understand how serious it is. It just makes no sense. Bottom line, this virus is 10-30 times more deadly than seasonal flu. That’s a lot more deaths. The other thing, it’s just nuts. I don’t want to say right-wing media but that’s what it is. It’s short-sighted. They think they’re helping the economy by hiding the truth from the American people. It’s the opposite, making the entire pain last longer. So we wind up with more people sick, more people dead, and that’s just tragic. Not just the human tragedy, but the social tragedy of not being able to visit your grandparents, and the economic consequences. All of that is being prolonged by misinformation. Truthful information that can help them and society is much more valuable to the public.

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Frances Wang