Doctor urges social distancing, vigilance as restrictions relax

Staying safe despite lifted restrictions

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A Montgomery doctor is sending a strong warning to stay vigilant in the fight against coronavirus, as the state’s restrictions are lifted.

Dr. Wick Many, a long-time infectious disease specialist with UAB’s Montgomery office, is extremely concerned with the state of COVID-19 in Alabama, especially in the River Region.

"This virus is not over, particularly in Montgomery. In fact, Montgomery is a lot worse than many other metropolitan centers. I would say be safe be very careful stay at home unless you absolutely have to go out, wash your hands, and if you do have to go out for whatever reason wear a mask to protect someone else from getting a virus," said Dr. Many.

Many says the easing of restrictions does not mean that you can stop restrictions.

“That may give a false sense of security that the message is that since their easing restrictions the virus is no longer a problem. That’s absolutely not true. The numbers of cases have increased, but that may reflect increase testing. In the Baptist coronavirus clinic, they are finding about 12.7, so for every 100 test they are finding about 13 people who are positive. The critical number is not necessarily the total number of cases, because a significant number of those folks may be completely asymptomatic or have very mild disease. The crucial number to look at is the number of hospitalizations, the number of individuals who are in critical care units, and the number of people who Are on ventilators, and tragically the number of deaths.”

Many is concerned the public may be feeling too relaxed now that parts of Alabama’s Safer at Home order have relaxed. He sees that as a dangerous side effect to the gradual reopening of the state.

“In the Montgomery area, we have seen an enormous surge in the past two weeks. The patients who are hospitalized, most of them are in the intensive care unit, and a significant number of them are on ventilators, that number has tripled in the past two weeks has tripled. Of the three Baptist hospitals, east, south, Prattville, and Jackson, on any given day, we have more patients in the hospital then there are in University Hospital at UAB in Birmingham. One day last week, we had double the number of patients in the hospital in Montgomery that they did in Birmingham,” Dr. Many said.

Many says a lot of the surge of these cases happened before the restrictions were issued.

"So this has been building. The concern is that if the public does not follow the guidelines, particularly wearing masks when you’re in public, social distancing, limiting the number of individuals in any one spot, hand washing, hand sanitizing, cleaning services, staying at home if you’re sick, if we don’t do that the surge is going to get even worse.

According to Dr. Many, Alabama is still climbing to its peak of coronavirus cases.

"The cases, as we said, are going to keep on going up because we're finding more. The numbers that truly concerned me are the number of people in the hospital. In speaking to my colleagues who are on the front lines, they are getting physically and emotionally exhausted. They are starting to have to be very difficult decisions. The drug Remdesivir, the antiviral that was released by the government for emergency use, we only received a certain number of doses, we didn’t get a lot of doses, and if it gets down to having one test left and you have two patients who need it, how do you decide who gets it? That’s puts an enormous strain on a healthcare professional."

That’s why Many reiterates the importance of continuing to follow health guidelines about social distancing,

"This is not the time to party. This is not the time to have social gatherings. There will be a time in the future when we can once again go to restaurants and bars and wedding receptions and graduation ceremonies and parties, but the time is not now. At least for Montgomery. I think it’s absolutely crucial to control this epidemic pandemic is that we continue to stay at home unless you absolutely have to go out," the doctor said. "I think if you have an absolute need to do that, then you would have to wear a mask, you have to be hand washing, being mindful of others, because you may be carrying the virus and have absolutely no symptoms but then transmit it to your friends, your family, your loved ones. I think that would be tragic if I knew that I had the virus and because of not following the guidelines, gave it to someone who I really care about."

Wearing a mask when out in public is non-negotiable if you ask Many.

“I think it’s absolutely critically important to wear a mask in public. The mask that you wear in public is to prevent you from giving it to someone else. So a bandanna, a surgical mask homemade mask, it’s very efficient and preventing transmission. The argument has always been that I have my rights, I can do what I want to do and that’s true, but when your rights and friendship on my right, then it’s not fair and it’s not ethical and it’s not moral.”

Even children, he believes, should wear a mask in public.

“I would put a mask on a child, not so much to prevent the child from getting it, but children can be super spreaders. The children can be carrying the virus in their airways, and go sit on grandma‘s lap, and spread it to everybody and coughing distance. And children as you well know, do you not necessarily practice the best hygiene,” said Dr. Many.

Many says if you have a child out in public put a mask on them. He says it’s important to explain to your children why they need to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

“You just be very candid with them and say that there is an illness out there that can make people very sick and we have to be respectful of other people and not do something that make it them sick. So we just have to wait and be patient, and someday will have another birthday party even if it’s six months after your regular birthday. Kids are, as you well know, are very perceptive, they overhear comments by parents, I think that’s also very important is to be mindful of what you’re talking about in front of them because they may misinterpret or become overly alarmed.”

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