UPMC Dr. Joins Sen. Toomey's Virtual Roundtable On How To Safely Reopen Economy

Experts say there is a way to keep the economy open while keeping people safe

Andrew Limberg
May 06, 2020 - 2:48 pm

Related: 19 New Cases Of COVID-19 In Allegheny Co. With 2 Additional Deaths

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) -  During a virtual roundtable on re-opening the economy with Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, Dr. Steven Shapiro, UPMC Executive Vice President, Chief Medical and Scientific and President of the Health Services Division, said that out of 1,000 coronavirus tests administered to non-COVID-19 patients, zero have tested positive so far.

Dr. Shapiro adds that out of 500 tests at UPMC facilities in central Pennsylvania, three people have tested positive for COVID-19.

At the peak of virus in April, Shapiro says only 2 percent of their hospital beds were dedicated to coronavirus patients.

Shapiro adds they saw a “steady stream” of COVID-19 patients but they never saw the surge that was feared.

Now, he says most of the patents that are entering their facilities are in nursing homes with very few from the community.

UPMC also runs 36 senior care facilities and Dr. Shapiro reports that there have been zero cases at those homes.

He adds that the median age of those that have died of coronavirus in their care are in the mid-80s and younger patients that died had “significant pre-existing conditions”.

UPMC also had very few children infected with zero deaths.

Dr. Shapiro says that minorities “faired equally as well as other but we know this is not the case nationally, in sum this is a disease of the elderly, sick and poor.”  

During the roundtable, Dr. Shapiro also talked about the concerns he has over extending isolation and lack of employment.

He says UPMC’s behavior health experts are starting to see the consequences of loneliness and “are very concerned about what will happen as we continue.”

Other doctors and experts on the call said mass, accurate testing must be made available in order to open up the economy, with one example being given, if you and your dentist have both tested negative for coronavirus, you should be able to get your teeth cleaned.

Dr. Shapiro says that there are ways to open society while keeping those more vulnerable safe.

 “The way to protect society while keeping it open is to really isolate and protect the vulnerable seniors, we can keep them out of harm’s way we can continue,” said Shapiro. “I think the example of the US(S) Theodore Roosevelt where 1,100 patients were infected and only one died, yes they can spread it among themselves but they’ll be fine as long as we keep our seniors protected and other vulnerable populations.”

Toomey says he is optimistic that the situation will continue to improve and Dr. Shapiro agrees that “with “tracing, tracking, testing, we can keep it under control,” if there is a resurgence in cases. He adds he believes antibody treatments will be available by the fall.

But Dr. Mark McClellan, says while his is “cautiously optimistic”, there are still a lot of “if’s” in the fight against COVID-19 in the weeks and months to come.

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