Coronavirus pandemic ‘won’t end magically or on its own,’ doctor says

Dr. Patrice Harris, former American Medical Association President, joins Yahoo Finance Live for "The Biden Presidency: Year One" special to discuss this administration's handling of COVID-19, the scarcity of testing resources and masks, being more proactive in the ongoing pandemic, and working to end it.

Video Transcript

- But we're going to bring into the stream former American Medical Association president Dr. Patrice Harris. And very simply, Doctor, from your viewpoint, what is the administration doing correctly?

PATRICE HARRIS: Well, thank you for having me. And certainly, we applaud the Biden administration for doing what it can to get the testing out, the mask out, as you just heard. Because from the very beginning of this pandemic, it seems that we would, as a country, focus on one thing. We might be focused on mask. Or we might be focused on testing, even though we, of course, from the very beginning, did not have the testing capacity. And really, it's about all, using all tools in the toolbox and not forgetting one and not becoming enamored with one.

It is masking. It is testing from the very beginning. I have advocated for testing before I co-founded eMed, as you know, as president of the American Medical Association, I talked about the importance of testing and the frustration with the long lines and the inequitable access to testing. So I believe they are getting it right regarding testing. Again, we've been behind the eight ball on testing since the beginning. And they're getting it right on mask. And funding is the right thing to do.

- Dr. Harris, when you think about this most recent surge from the Omicron variant, it feels like there's been a bit of a shift from trying to crack down or quash the pandemic to actually learning to live with this virus. How does that shift change up the approach for the White House? Or how should it?

PATRICE HARRIS: Well, we had the Delta surge. And now, we have the Omicron surge. And it appears-- although, I tell you I'm uncomfortable with using words like "letting up." As a physician, a former public health official, I think we need to actually keep our feet on the gas pedal to use another metaphor. Certainly, Omicron is less deadly, more transmissible, but still, again, as you noted in the opening, we have thousands of people dying every day. So we should not be letting up.

I've said this virus gets an A-plus at doing what viruses do, viruses mutate. You can't predict how they will mutate. But we know that viruses do mutate. And that's why, again, we need to make sure. Again, to be a bit more proactive. We talked about working to prevent pandemics. We need to also make sure we are working through a pandemic to continue to do the things testing, masking, thinking about testing in schools and in the workplaces, all the public health measures that we know work.

- Dr. Harris, you know far better than we do. But we've had guests on the platform who've said, look, by March or April, they use that term, we can let up. But I hear you saying is, no, we need to stay kind of the level we're at now, but there doesn't seem to be an end.

PATRICE HARRIS: So let me say this, there will be an end. I do believe, as many public health officials and physicians believe that we will get to the point where this is endemic. And we think about this just like we think about the flu. We had the flu season. And we have flu campaigns. We want everyone to get vaccinated. So that will happen.

However, right now, we are still in the midst. We have the Omicron. So this will end. I am hopeful that this will end. But actions will be required for this to end. I mean, it won't end magically or on its own. We as a society have to continue to do the things. Now, clearly, we are not where we were a year ago. Because we have the vaccine, everyone should get vaccinated and boosted that's eligible. We have mask, and I really do again applaud the administration for getting the correct mask out there.

Testing works and is a critical piece. We will need to be strategic and targeted in our testing. We will need to make sure we have the data regarding the test results. So we should be able to look back at this investment and say, here's what we know. Certainly, there are some opportunities where you just want to test, we just want to know, but there are others where you need the data and you want systems like our platform at eMed so that you can keep up with the data.

And if we take those actions, we will end this pandemic. But it won't happen magically. And it won't happen without our action, our collective action.

- Appreciate your joining us. Dr. Patrice Harris is the co-founder and CEO of eMed, as well as a former President of the American Medical Association. All the best to you.

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