March 30: Facts, not Fear; Answering your COVID-19 concerns

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A lot of you have reached out to us with questions regarding the coronavirus.

Jennifer Penate spoke with Dr. Gary Berner at the Community Clinic of Northwest Arkansas to clear up COVID-19 concerns.

Jennifer: How’s the Community Clinic holding up? Has there been an increase in the amount of tests?

Dr. Berner: “We’re holding up, a lot of our team has just really resilient in this time period. Just showing incredible flexibility. We are, you know, if not hourly, certainly by the day, making changes in our clinic and our clinic processes. We had one of our outdoor testing treatment sites in Prairie Grove and we’ve moved that over to our Fayetteville clinic just to accommodate the community needs. We’re increasing our services, adding another outdoor site in Springdale at our main campus as there as well. So our providers and nurses, our medical assistants have just been really flexible and you know, we’re sharing the same fear and anxiety of the unknown of the current concerns as the rest of the community. So, just been really impressed with our team at the community clinic but of course across Northwest Arkansas with Regional and Mercy and Northwest and how we’re responding to the Coronavirus pandemic. In terms of testing, we continue to really see that ramped up, believe I saw this morning that 16 patients were confirmed positive in Washington County, but we are aware that there is likely significantly more to come, quite a few folks who’ve been tested, very likely to be positive without a result just isn’t back yet. So certainly the number of tests we’re sending out has increased.”

Jennifer: The numbers of COVID-19 cases keep rising in the state. Governor Asa Hutchinson announced ordering 500 ventilators last week. Is this enough?

Dr. Berner: “I’m glad that they’re continuing to update our supplies. 500 ventilators might be okay for now but it’s likely that the state will continue to have to be very proactive. Each individual testing center like Community Clinic has to stay proactive on staying on top of its equipment because what’s enough for today is only speaking for today and maybe the rest of this week. This situation is changing rapidly and al the health centers and hospitals have to adjust accordingly.”

Jennifer: Arkansas Secretary of Health Doctor Nate Smith announced last week that plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients is a promising way to treat critically ill patients. Why plasma?

Dr. Berner: “It certainly can be confusing, The beauty of our immune system is that when it’s exposed to something whether that’s a cold or a vaccine or an allergy or the Coronavirus, it begins to adapt. And so when a person gets Coronavirus their body starts working and adapting its immune system to then take care of the Coronavirus and as it builds up antibodies then it’s able to alert the rest of the immune system to attack the Coronavirus and fight it off. So in patients that have recovered from Coronavirus, their immune system has developed antibodies that can help fight off Coronavirus. So the hope is, and what we’re seeing, is that then if someone is recovered, they can share their antibodies with someone that’s fighting the Coronavirus that hasn’t had the time to develop their own antibodies.”

Jennifer: We’re getting a lot of questions from viewers who are unclear on this one: People are being told to stay home, but also told it’s okay to go outside for walks. Can you explain how it’s safe to be outside?

Dr. Berner: “Being outdoors provides a lot of safety because of air movement. Indoors, unless you’re in a hospital in what we call a negative air pressure room, that’s actively sucking the air out of the room. Outdoors is a safe place to be because of continuous airflow and movement. That’s why at the community clinic, we’ve set up testing sites and treatment sites that are outdoors cause we that constant air flow movement as opposed to being indoors in a small patient room with someone that could’ve potentially coughed and those respiratory secretions that stay in the room. So in terms of being outdoors and what’s safe and what’s unsafe. What I would recommend doing, you know, going for walks, but doing that in small groups and the people that you live with. Not joining up with other families or joining up with your friends to go on a group walk together, but keeping that same social distancing approach you do indoors, outdoors as well.”

Jennifer: Many people in our communities are making masks to help lower the spread of the virus. We’re clear they are not medical grade masks – but are they still helpful or effective?

Dr. Berner: “We haven’t had the ability to test the homemade masks. Some people are making them out of cotton and others are making them out of nylon and so many variables there that it’s tough to know how effective the homemade masks are. You gotta think that something is better than nothing. But we don’t’ know how effective the homemade masks are because we haven’t been able to scientifically study them.”

Jennifer: Someone has found an old bottle of hand sanitizer, is it still safe and effective for them to use if it’s expired?

Dr. Berner: “I can’t necessarily recommend expired hand sanitizer. It’s really tough to know what would happen, how well the bottle was made, and so many variables there so I can’t recommend it. Many times the effectiveness has reduced. So probably not very effective but again something better than nothing.”

Jennifer: Another popular question is about grocery shopping and pick-up orders from restaurants. How can we ensure our safety with groceries, especially fruits, vegetables, raw foods– and those to-go-orders?

Dr. Berner: “Ask how they’re protecting you. If they’re taking measures like evaluating their own employees’ symptoms like screening for fever or cough, are they evaluating their own employees’ hand hygiene? If they’re taking those measures, that really sounds like they’re going the extra step for your safety, If they can’t really answer you in what they’re doing, it would be a place I’d avoid. At this time, any establishment has really had the time to develop measures, even if they’re going to change, right now they should already have measures in place to help decrease the possible contagiousness of their employees and increase the safety of anyone who wants to pick up food, whether that’s a grocery store or a restaurant.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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