Duke medical chief answers some of your COVID-19, social distancing questions

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020
A COVID-19 update from Dr. Lisa Pickett of Duke
Duke medical chief Dr. Lisa Pickett answers some of your COVID-19, social distancing questions.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dr. Lisa Pickett, chief medical officer at Duke University Hospital, joined ABC11 for a live chat Thursday to answer some of your questions about the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing. Watch the full session in the media player above.

Did Duke see a jump in COVID-19 cases this week and what, if anything, do these rising numbers tell us about where North Carolina is in this crisis?

Duke did not see a jump though we have continued to see a trended increase in the number of infected patients who required admission. We know that we are continuing to see an increase in patients and expect to do that for the near future. We're very excited, in fact, that it does appear that we're able to bend the curve with people staying home and washing hands, but we have seen a trended increase.

Are we learning anymore to help us understand why different people respond so differently to this illness?

It's very interesting. We do know that some groups of people are more at risk to have severe symptoms. Those who traditionally have more weakened immune systems ... the elderly, etc. But there are some people, for whom we are not entirely why one would have a more benign course and one would have a much more symptomatic course.

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Can you get COVID-19 just by passing someone on the street?

We know that this virus is transmitted but it generally can go when someone coughs about six feet. It's not something like measles that goes throughout the room, throughout the space. And so, if we're keeping a good social distance of six feet or more, that we shouldn't just by merely passing someone be able to readily transmit the virus. But that does require that we stay six feet apart and certainly, there's some help with wearing a mask when we're out in public.

What are they going to tell high-risk groups when we begin to open back up? There's no vaccine and until there is, we'll still be at risk of dying if they get the virus. What will they have to do?

We are thinking a lot about that here at Duke because, of course, routinely we care for very vulnerable populations of very high-risk patients. And we know that this infection is not going to have a vaccine in the near future and we hope to improve treatments over time, but we know that there will be some people that are vulnerable to that over some period of time, perhaps even years. And we are going to have to continue to work with them about things we should always do like handwashing and hygiene. But we may have to encourage people who are in the most vulnerable patient populations to continue to separate a bit more; to wear masks, perhaps, when out in public and to stay away from those who are ill ... unfortunately, this is not going to rapidly go away.

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