Burstein on COVID crisis, hospital space and testing priorities

Mar 25, 2020

Erie County is preparing to  rent property for makeshift quarantine centers and hospitals, as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's mandate to increase capacity by 100 percent.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein, MD

"On  behalf of healthcare,  we are looking at at multiple sites, " said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein MD, in a wide ranging interview with WBFO, where she also touched on the need to prioritize testing for health care workers and other essential personnel.

Burstein said hospitals are looking at ways to increase their critical care beds, while the county is addressing ways to add other treatment and quarntine sites that won't provide such intenseive care.

"The healthcare systems, they're all increasing their capacity to take care of very, very ill patients. They're increasing their ICU capacity and they're increasing their ventilator capacity. And then on the Erie County side, we're looking at hopefully acquiring some property and renting out some space and converting it for a place where people who are  either a known infection with COVID-19, or are suspected or known to have contact with COVID-19, and ....they don't have anywhere else to stay for isolation or quarantine can stay," Burstein said.

"We're looking at many different options. It would be a place that has to have private bathrooms. it has to have a cooking facility to feed people. So, we're looking at at many different options,' she said. 

"We are looking at every type of venue possible to try to acquire more personal protective equipment. I know the hospitals are all trying to get additional personal protective equipment from their sources. We are also going through vendors we are going to the states we are going finding new vendors so we are all trying very, very hard."

On other topics:

- The marketing and use of unproven remedies is on the rise: "My pharmacist mentioned to me that they were out of (the antibiptic) Azithromycin because people are buying it for treatment for coronavirus. Azithromycin is investigated right now, the results of those trials are not out yet. So we don't know if it has any effect. And we don't know if the potential adverse effects are worse than the benefits from it. So it's just not a good idea to take any medication if it has not been approved for what you're trying to use it.

When can we mingle again?  "When we start to see the numbers decrease and we start to see less illness in the community and we start to see the hospital beds empty, then I think we can back off on our our restrictions. We're just taking it one step at a time and continuing to blast these messages about social distancing or physical distancing, hand washing, good respiratory etiquette, and people who are sick should stay in isolation ... I mean, we have to continue with those non pharmaceutical interventions because we know they can be effective. That's all we have right now.

Protecting Health Care workers:  Burstein says that the county is also working with vendors to secure more personal protection equipment for health care workers, and as the demand for testing increases-- they will prioritize health care workers and other essential personell to recieve tests.

"We've been running up at around 80 to 100 tests results daily. We're also getting custom results daily from commercial laboratories. Now we're getting lab tests from hospital laboratories and again, that testing is not the answer by itself. Right now. We're really using the testing as a community to look at to test people who are critical patients, we need to put them in isolation and say negative pressure room and use special personal protective equipment. We are testing our healthcare workforce to make sure that they can continue working and they don't know expose other people to kovat 19 and we are going to be testing our essential personnel or first responders or or police or EMTs people Working in the grocery stores to make sure that we can keep the food on the shelf, we can keep the lights on