Florida health official urging vaccinations puts DeSantis ‘in an awkward situation,’ doctor says

Dr. Adrian Burrowes, Family Medicine Physician & CFP Physicians Group CEO, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how Omicron is still surging in regions such as Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis' stance on COVID-19 vaccines, and historical references for pandemic lengths.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: So let's bring into the stream Dr. Adrian Burrowes, who's a family medicine physician at CFP, the Physicians Group, as well as CFO-- CEO. It's good to have you here, Dr. Burrowes. Thank you for joining us.

I guess it depends where you are in the country to be able to say that it's peaked and now declining. That's at least the headline we're getting in New York. What do you think is truly going on with this nationwide?

ADRIAN BURROWES: Well, thanks for having me on, first of all. Secondly, though, you're right. Depending on where you are geographically in the country depends on where you are in terms of whether we feel that Omicron is reaching its peak or whether, you know, you are past the point of-- of having to worry.

So, you know, I'm in Florida, and so the data is showing that we are coming off of a peak. So hopefully, we'll be looking at, you know, less cases. Last week, we were inundated with cases. You still can't get into the hospital. If you get admitted to the emergency room now, it's taking you almost two days to get admitted there locally in Orlando, where I am.

And, you know, I just think that people let their guards down. We do have a-- a variant in Omicron which is much more easily transmitted, and I think you're seeing that as you go across the country.

EMILY MCCORMICK: Doctor, thank you so much for joining us. In your state, there has been an inquiry in Florida that just opened into Dr. Raul Pino, the director of Florida Department of Health in Orange County, to determine whether he tried to press employees to get vaccinated in violation of a state law prohibiting government agencies from implementing vaccine mandates. What impact do you think the state law and now an inquiry towards an official who may have violated it-- what has that done for vaccination rates in Florida?

ADRIAN BURROWES: Yeah. So first of all, you know, I will tell you that the governor, DeSantis, has been, you know-- I don't want to call him anti-vax, but he certainly has not been a proponent of what I consider doing the right thing in trying to promote vaccination. The gentleman that you're referencing in public health, he is not-- he's not asking for a vaccine mandate. He's simply saying that those people who are working in public health are not being vaccinated at the same rate as the general population, and he's encouraging them to do so.

So that puts Governor DeSantis in an awkward situation. He's not-- he's not mandating vaccines. He's encouraging vaccines, which is a First Amendment right. Governor DeSantis has always been about freedoms, freedoms of speech, and-- and things of that nature. So does he try to fine this gentleman for-- for violating the vaccine mandate law, or does he stick with his-- his mantra of freedom of speech? So that puts them in an awkward situation, so I'm interested to see how he handles that.

ADAM SHAPIRO: But your governor, Governor DeSantis, won't even admit if he got the booster shot, whereas the former president, who's a resident of Florida, has talked about getting the booster shot. How difficult does it make it for doctors when the state's leader takes that kind of position?

ADRIAN BURROWES: That's a wonderful question, and this is very, very difficult. You know, we have been struggling to try to get control over our infection numbers here in Florida. And so when you have the leader, the people that-- a person that someone-- that people look up to in terms of directing us and trying to help us get control of this-- this pandemic not supporting the health care officials in the state, it makes it very, very, very difficult. And it's confusing to the-- to the patients, it's confusing to our residents, and it certainly is not making my job any easier.

EMILY MCCORMICK: I want to shift gears for a moment and ask you about data that you're seeing around long COVID, so those who were previously infected but may still be experiencing some symptoms of COVID-19 months after that initial infection. Are we seeing any data emerge in terms of who's being affected most by this and how to alleviate some of these lingering symptoms?

ADRIAN BURROWES: Yes. So, you know, people who are, you know, at high risk for developing COVID are people who are-- you're starting to see these, you know, prolonged conditions with, where they're getting, you know, scarring to the lung tissue, you know, having prolonged periods of shortness of breath, unable to return to their normal quality of life. But I will tell you that that is actually trending into people that, you know, you would have considered having healthy lifestyle.

So the high-risk patients as we have identified them are not the only people who are having these long-COVID symptoms. And so that's why I try to urge everyone I can to try to get vaccinated if you're eligible to be vaccinated because we're definitely seeing less of those symptoms in the vaccinated population.

ADAM SHAPIRO: It's a hopeful question I'm about to ask you, but it's a "light on the horizon" question. Do you have, in your mind, a date by which this really is going to be behind us?

ADRIAN BURROWES: That's wonderful. I know people are really anxious for that. I mean, I don't think anyone really thought it would even last this long. Historically, pandemics tend to last roughly four years, if you look back in history. And so I would hope that that would be the light at the end of the tunnel. I know some people are getting very excited about what's happening with Omicron, if you can get excited about something, because it's really increased the amount of people who it's affecting. So I think people are trying to-- trying to hope that, you know, we'll develop herd immunity as a result.

But I tell people, we thought the herd immunity number would be 60% to 70% when this first started. For Omicron, we're talking, like, probably 90% to 95% to achieve, you know, that type of immunity. So I tell people, don't worry about those-- those types of things. Worry about what you can control. We cannot control coronavirus, but we can control whether we get vaccinated, whether we wear masks, whether we social distance, whether we wash our hands. So I tell people, those are the things you can control. Those are the things you should be doing.

EMILY MCCORMICK: All right. Dr. Adrian Burrowes, family medicine physician and CFP Physicians Group CEO, thank you so much for joining us, and thank you for your time this afternoon.

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