BY: LEIGHTON SCHNEIDER
(NEW YORK) — Dr. Sujana Chandrashaker, a top ear, nose, and throat specialist in New York and northern New Jersey, started reading about COVID-19 in medical journals and began tracking the virus clinically in early March. She was shocked and scared by what she saw.
Dr. Chandrashaker spoke to ABC’s Cheri Preston, the host of ABC News’ “Perspective’ Podcast, about what she’s experienced and say’s there is a fear in the city that is similar to the time after 9/11, but there is a major difference between the two.
“After 9/11, we were all in it together. We were not a danger to each other, we weren’t going to bring 9/11 home to our families. With this I have to tell you, I was so anxious that today was going to be my last healthy day on Earth for the first two weeks of this,” she said.
Governors across the country are beginning to re-open their states, allowing residents to go to places like restaurants, barbershops, and malls, despite warnings from health officials, who say they virus could spread further.
Dr. Chandrashaker says the battle between politics and medicine is hurting our society, but she understands why there is a push to re-open.
“We can’t keep our country and our world closed forever. People have to eat. People have to work. People need the mental health of getting away from their families for some amount of time during the day. Our kids need the mental health break of being with their friends of doing all the things that we used to do a month ago, she said.”
She says we can’t let our guard down as we go back to more normal activities.
“As we start opening our world for commerce, we need to know that we still need to physically distance ourselves. We still need to be six feet from other people, and we still need to be wearing a mask. We still need to be wearing gloves even if we go shopping and we still need to wash our hands for 20 seconds, that’s going to happen for a long time. Americans are not used to wearing masks in life and we have to get used to doing that, she said.”
Eventually, offices and other workplaces will re-open as more restrictions are lifted. Dr. Chandrashaker says if workers are stressed, or have anxiety, about being close to co-workers then they shouldn’t be forced to go back in.
“I think if you don’t have to go in and you’ve been working from home, why shouldn’t you continue? If you are getting all the work of your company done and you don’t have to be there, and you can be on a conference call and you can be on a Zoom call and you can be this and you can be that. I think we’re actually going to see a difference in the way a significant percentage of businesses do business, she said.”
In her world changes have already started with doctors seeing patients via telemedicine and she says even more changes will come.
“We are all making our waiting rooms safer, our schedules lighter, so that we can, in fact, see fewer people. You don’t have that stereotypical waiting room of a doctor’s office where everyone’s leafing through the same magazines and coughing on each other. That’s not going to happen again, she said.”
Even with the new set up, having patients come into an office might be the last resort for doctors.
“I can see you by telemedicine and then say, you know what, I want to do this treatment. And if you’re not feeling better when we meet again by telemedicine, I really do need you to come in and because you are elderly or have an underlying disease, you’re gonna be the 8:00 patient. So you’re going to get in, get out and leave, she said.”
She already has a plan for her Wayne, New Jersey office if she needs to be in the room with a patient.
“You’re gonna wait in your car and we’re gonna call you in your car and tell you when to come upstairs. You’re even just going to like race through the waiting room and get right into the exam room and then race back out and do all the paperwork. All the front desk work can be done remotely. Frankly, I think we’re going to go through a full cycle of this, which means we’re going to go through essentially a year of this, she said.”
All across the country, we see people having more empathy for their fellow citizens, whether it’s wearing a mask to protect someone on the street, or reaching out to someone alone and isolated. Dr. Chandrashaker thinks this needs to continue, especially for the healthcare workers fighting the virus.
“I think we have to know that there’s going to be a lot of recovery, whether it’s physical recovery. I will tell you, I mean, the clapping for the healthcare workers, it’s really wonderful. We will need help for a long time. None of us signed up for a constant flow of death and destruction. I think the fact that we are seeing such positive outpouring of affection from people is really helping the health care workers, the frontline workers, she said.”
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