COVID-19: 'The good, the bad and the ugly'

Hank Hayes • Apr 9, 2020 at 3:00 PM

COVID-19 has become “the good, the bad and the ugly,” a local physician said during a telephone town hall meeting co-hosted by state Rep. Timothy Hill.

“The experts have struggled with this infection since the very beginning to get a handle on it, to understand to know what to make out of it. We’re learning as we go,” said John Green, M.D.

The bad, said Green, is COVID-19 is real and the infection people can get with it is quite severe.

“People who are symptomatic can get respiratory failure, end up on a ventilator and die from this disease,” Green stressed. “In the elderly, this disease is particularly severe. Chronic illnesses increase the risk of getting into trouble with coronavirus ... (people with) diabetes, hypertension, lung disease, cancer, kidney disease. More people are infected with this than we know, which means they can spread it before we can do anything to prevent that.”

Green said the ugly part of COVID-19 is the health care community doesn’t know where this disease is going to go or what it will do.

“A few days ago, there were statements like ‘New York City is what Tennessee is going to look like two weeks from now,’ ” Green noted. “I think that’s not going to be true, but we never know quite how it’s going to play out. We do think the curve has flattened, that the peak is not going to be as high, that the intensive care units in hospitals are going to be able to handle what goes on, but we don’t know how long this is going to last and that is a worrisome thing.”

The good news, Green pointed out, is that COVID-19 may have peaked in a lot of places.

“There are only 11,000 deaths. ... 11,000 deaths is never good, but the projections were much higher for total number of deaths,” Green said. “In the last flu season, there were between 21,000 and 55,000 deaths. The risk of dying is 1.4% worldwide, and 3% in the U.S. and in Tennessee. It’s important to be checked but not panic over this.”

Hill, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, noted the negative effect COVID-19 is having on the economy.

“The disruption is not just your local eatery,” Hill, R-Blountville, said. “If you can buy a gift card, the people on social media know I’ve done that. But eating by curbside or pickup, now is the time to do it. With social distancing, you can still do what you need to do.”

COVID-19, meanwhile, is giving rise to telemedicine. Hill said a “rate parity” bill for providers to be paid the same amount for telemedicine as an office visit did not pass earlier this year but will come back.

“Insurance companies and the federal government have both stepped forward by paying for telemedicine when they were hesitant to do so before,” Green pointed out.

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