Are we overdoing it with the sanitizing? Duke medical chief answers this and other questions

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dr. Lisa Pickett, chief medical officer at Duke University Hospital, joined ABC11 for a live chat Tuesday just before Gov. Roy Cooper outlined his plans for Phase 1 reopening and lifting of some restrictions throughout the state.

A partial transcript follows. Watch the video in the media player above for the full answers.

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With Gov. Roy Cooper announcing the Phase 1 reopening, what does that mean for you at Duke?

As you know, we've been open for business as a Level 1 Trauma Center throughout this time. But we've certainly changed what we do. So, you will come and find our employees, and our patients and their loved ones all wearing masks. And the number of people coming into our institution has gone down fairly dramatically, so that has allowed us to be very safe in taking chairs out of the waiting room so people are six feet apart and allowing us to spread our employees out because we haven't needed as many people working in the hospital. And we've been very careful to keep everything especially clean, especially sanitized around the emergency room and around the hospital, so that we could care for those patients who require emergency and urgent care. And we are making plans along with the rest of our community to continue to allow more people into our institution for more elective type care.

How long do you think we're going to have to grapple with these limitations on group sizes? Is it safe for people to be close together, less than six feet, if we're all wearing those cloth masks?

Well, if we're wearing masks, we probably could be a little closer together, but I think to be the safest right now in the beginning, we should err on the side of caution ... the safer we can be in the beginning to slowly get back toward the normal, the fewer the infections that we'll see, the fewer people will be sick, and then more easily we can transition into our new normal environment.

It's encouraging to see so many people donating plasma and antibodies to try to help others struggling with the illness, but on the other hand, there's a lot we don't know about how COVID immunity works, right?

So, it is very encouraging that anyone who thinks that they may have been exposed, been sick, and recovered is eager to donate their plasma, it's wonderful. And we have the capacity to do that here at Duke as well as a number of other academic institutions. I think the opportunity now is for us to participate in research so that we can take the time to understand what type of plasma is effective and how can we use that to help those who are currently ill ... probably the best way for people to really help move knowledge forward is to contribute their plasma to a study.

Can we be oversanitizing and lowering our immune systems?

That's a great question. In the long term, we don't know. In the short term, certainly the benefit of cleansing everything outweighs the risks. This is a monumental and sort of surreal time where the risk of getting infected and getting ill are very high. So, really keeping everything around you quite clean, keeping your home clean, the surfaces at work clean, being good about hand hygiene and again, wearing masks and staying six feet apart from people is definitely the best way to stay safe and healthy for you and your family.
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