Dr. Larry Simon Discusses the Coronavirus and What Health Officials Know

Nourish Your Health welcomes Dr. Larry Simon, Medical Director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, to discuss the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. An active Rotarian, an animal rescuer, and a native of Lafayette, LA, Dr. Simon is an alum of LSU, Baylor College of Medicine, and Rady Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Otolaryngology Fellowship in San Diego, CA. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at LSU. And by the way, ” otolaryngology’ is a fancy word for “ENT”….an ear, nose and throat doctor!

Dr. Simon stressed the need for all of us to be cautious and diligent in taking care of ourselves and listening to what the experts advise us to do. There is no reason to panic and go out to purchase a half year’s supply of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. We do need to be cognizant that as a community we must work together to contain the spread of the virus and respect the advisories that government officials provide to us.

One of the most basic things we can all do to contain the spread and keep ourselves healthy is to wash our hands frequently with any type of soap, following the “20-second rule.” COVID-19 is an RNA virus that has RNA (ribonucleic acid) as its genetic material. The virus is wrapped in lipid layers (a ball of fat) that protects the virus and allows it to be absorbed in the body once ingested. Scientists know that soap is more effective than hand sanitizer in cleansing the skin and more importantly, soap works to dissolve the lipid (fat) layer of the virus if you leave it on your skin for 20 seconds. So Dr. Simon counsels, wet your hands, lather up, and leave the soap on for 20 seconds before your rinse with water to effectively kill the virus.

This interview was taped on March 12, 2020, and in just 24 hours, things have evolved quickly. Public universities and schools have announced they will close and convert to online learning, President Trump declared the pandemic to be a national emergency, and events and festivals are being postponed, all in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

While these emergency measures are important, commonsense precautions will also go a long way in the effort to keep people healthy as scientists work around the clock to better understand the virus; no one knows yet how long the virus stays active once it’s on a surface, or if humidity or temperature matters, or if people will stay permanently immune to the COVID-19 virus once they’ve been exposed to it. So it’s best for you to just avoid situations which put you at risk of contracting the virus.

Dr. Simon is adamant that you stay at least five to six feet away from anyone who is sneezing or coughing; in fact, “just get the heck away” from anyone who is sick. The virus is an airborne virus causing respiratory distress and is spread through droplets such as mucus or saliva; in other words, people sneeze or cough the virus out into the air. This is why elderly people in their 60’s and up or people with a compromised immune system are advised to stay away from crowds as it can be impossible to avoid being exposed. No one knows yet if the virus lives on surfaces for a few hours or a few days. It’s not worth it to play fast and loose with your health, as the majority of the people who have died were elderly. Children and young people worldwide have for the most part only contracted mild cases of COVID-19, however, it is not known how many are asymptomatic and spreading the virus unwittingly.

Blue Cross will cover all costs of Covid-19 testing, with no co-pay required. Just as importantly, Blue Cross wants people to be ready in the event they are quarantined and the insurer has waived penalties for early refills of chronic disease medications. So if you have 20 pills left of an important prescription, you can go ahead and get a 90-day refill early with no financial penalty incurred.

Dr. Simon urges anyone concerned with symptoms of fever at 100 degrees or higher and a dry cough to first download BlueCare, a telemedicine app provided by Blue Cross, or to utilize a telehealth service such as that offered by Lafayette General Health before you go out into the public for treatment. It is far better to make a phone call first to speak with a physician about your symptoms than to go sit in the Urgent Care or Emergency Room waiting area where you can spread the disease or contract it from others who are coughing around you.

Symptoms to look for: Fever and a dry cough together, followed by severe malaise or tiredness. Interestingly, COVID-19 patients do not seem to have headaches in the way people with the flu experience; this is one way to distinguish the two and diagnose the virus.

Wearing a mask is not going to keep you from getting the virus, it is only recommended if you already have it so you don’t cough the virus droplets onto others.

It’s not too late to get the flu shot and Dr. Simon actively encourages it. If you have a cough and fever, you might actually have the flu. The flu season is lasting longer this year and also, health officials want to have as many beds available as possible for COVID-19 patients, as the disease is twice as contagious as the flu and has over a 3% mortality rate for “known” cases. The flu has a mortality rate of 0.1% by comparison. COVID is more contagious than the flu and more deadly than the flu. It is unknown at this point how many people are potentially infected and test kits are becoming more available after an initial shortage.

To stay up to date with the most current information, please visit the following websites: https://www.cdc.gov/, http://ldh.la.gov/ (Louisiana Department of Health) or https://www.who.int/ (World Health Organization).

Dr. Simon’s commonsense advice: Take care of yourselves….get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, exercise and drink plenty of water, things we should do on a daily basis to maintain optimal health. “Social Distancing” may be a smart tactic while efforts are underway to control the spread of Covid-19.

We want to thank Dr. Larry Simon for his expertise and ability to make a complicated health situation easy to understand! We also thank Jason Sikora for producing this podcast, along with our sponsor, RADER!