On Monday, March 16th, nearly 9,000 people tuned in as Congressman T.J. Cox hosted a Tele-Town Hall to update Central Valley residents on COVID-19. Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County Interim Health Officer joined him to answer questions from the public. They began the town hall by addressing concerns that the government may be “overreacting” to the pandemic:
“I want to say that’s simply not true,” Cox said. “We absolutely need to slow the spread of the virus, which we can do if everyone gets on the same page. And we can do this while not pressuring our emergency healthcare services who are already stretched thin…We’re absolutely in a critical week where what we do now and the steps we take for our families, can save lives and stop millions more from getting sick.”
What’s most unsettling about this virus is that it’s highly contagious. Vohra explained that humans have no immunity against COVID-19. And with no vaccines available, hospitals are in “disaster mode” by planning ahead for a worst case scenario.
“The numbers are pretty grim,” Vohra admitted. “If you take a 3% case fatality rate, in a city the size of Fresno that translates into 15,000 deaths. And that’s not counting all the folks that will survive who will have a 2-3 week hospitalization, which will be in the tens of thousands as well. I can tell you right now, we currently don’t have the critical care bed capacity for that.”
That is exactly why people are being encouraged to practice social distancing and stay home. It’s an attempt to “flatten the curve” and reduce the number of hospitalizations, so that our healthcare system does not get overwhelmed and we can mitigate the number of deaths.
That said, Vohra also assured the public that although the virus is very contagious, it’s usually only dangerous for the elderly and immunocompromised. In fact, most people will improve within a couple of days–which is why he recommends waiting it out if you do happen to develop symptoms.
“Wait three or four days if you can, and see if you can get better. Chances are you will…Because right now we have a lot of people who want to rush in on that first day, and that’s what’s really mucking up resource allocation. We don’t need panic. We need to prepare.”
A woman called in to speak with the congressman about her concerns regarding all the panic-buying. She explained how the shelves of her local grocery store were empty of bread, milk, toilet paper and baby formula.
Cox responded by asking the public to be more considerate of others.
“Keep in mind when you’re buying all these things, you might be taking away from a senior who won’t be able to get it…We don’t need panic. We need to prepare.”
People with conditions such as diabetes who require regular medication were encouraged to speak with their doctors about getting an advance on their prescriptions ahead of time.
Residents were also urged to find ways to work from home. But for some, that decision has already been made for them. With stricter quarantine restrictions being implemented, many workers throughout the Central Valley have been finding themselves laid off or with significantly reduced hours.
Cox reassured the public that last week Congress passed an $8.3 billion bill to address some of these concerns. The money will be used to develop a vaccine, loans for small businesses affected by the virus, and the white house and congress were also in agreement to pass a bill that provides:
- free coronavirus testing
- paid emergency leave for 14 days
- up to three months of family and medical leave
- advanced unemployment insurance
- food security for everyone
- protection of “frontline workers”
- increased federal funds of medicaid
Congressman Cox and Dr. Vohra ended the telephone town hall by asking the public to be patient and considerate with neighbors and people on the front lines of the coronavirus situation like grocery store workers, custodians, emergency services and healthcare professionals who are trying their best to keep us safe.
Cox specifically requested that people take care of our most vulnerable.
“Please check in on your neighbors,” he added. “If you have a neighbor who may be susceptible to the virus, you can be incredibly helpful by checking in on them and offering to help with them with errands and other things.”
They also reminded the public once again not to panic, even if they start to start to develop symptoms.
“It can be miserable,” Vohra said. “But there’s all these counter remedies. You can take fever medicine. Just staying hydrated is a big part of it. And eventually your own immune system fights back these viruses. You just have to give it a couple days. And most people, like I said, will fight and recover.”
For more information and updates on the pandemic, visit cox.house.gov/coronavirus.