By Afea Tucker
Healthcare logistics expert Dr. Larry Caplin has provided recommendations to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 as Philadelphia gets closer to Pennsylvania’s “green phase” of reopening.
“Helping employees safely get back to work here at DOCS Health has become my mission,” Caplin, a 30-year decorated health logistics professional and DOCS Health CEO, said.
Many are fearful as Philadelphia prepares to reopen. Caplin hopes to alleviate some of that anxiety by facilitating conversations to provide insight about the important factors and practices people need to consider as they prepare for a “new normal.”
“People need to be aware that this virus has not changed,” he said. “Its risk has not changed and the speed of which it can be transmitted from person to person has not changed. Until we have therapy or people are vaccinated, they need to continue with the public safety policies of reducing transmission that they’ve learned in the last three months.”
Philadelphia is currently in the yellow phase of reopening and is mitigating green phase procedures. On June 23, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced 219 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Philadelphia bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 25,335.
Although the total positive COVID-19 cases have continued to increase since the pandemic, the number of new daily positive cases have steadily declined, and Philadelphia is expected to fully move to the green phase on July 3, creating some uncertainty as to what businesses and residents will do.
“The closing of the country is definitely behind us,” Caplin said. “I don’t think that we will shut the country down like we did, but as it relates to the virus and transmission. The silver lining is [that] people have learned how to reduce the transmission of the infectious disease.”
The Pa.gov website advises that the best way to protect oneself and everybody else from COVID-19 is to stay home. This coronavirus is highly contagious, even before symptoms begin to show.
“We need to implement procedures in order to be able to operate effectively, and that’s in all areas of our world,” Caplin said. “Every single business should be able to open; they’re just going to have to change how they operate. For some, that’s going to change, whether or not they’re economically viable anymore.”
“We’re going to implement technology procedures and change the way we interact with each other, and we’ll end up with a more efficient operation ultimately,” he explained.
Not all activities can restart right away once the city reaches the green phase.
Philadelphia will continue to restrict some activities that are allowed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and we’ll have stricter guidance for newly reopened activities. In the words of Philadelphia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley, “we may be tired of the pandemic, but the virus is not tired of us.”
“At the end of the day what we need to do is reduce the spread of disease, increase the identification of people who have symptoms or who’ve been exposed, and then increase identification of where infection is coming from,” Caplin said.
“Businesses can all open, churches can open, schools are going to be able to open,” Caplin added. “What is the alternative? The alternative is never opening them?”
To date, the coronavirus has risen in 26 states. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has expressed concern about potential increase of communal spread in a recent news conference and warns against going into large crowds.
It has also been reported that there will be more testing in the Philadelphia region and other parts of the country.
However, both Fauci’s and Caplin’s messages differ sharply from what the White House is currently saying in regards to public safety.
“We’re carrying more of the virus into the summer than we thought we would,” Caplin said. “We’re at a time where we expected the virus to go down, and it’s not. Especially in places that are hotter right now like Arizona and Texas. Actually a lot of the southern states where you would have hoped that the heat will help us, we are seeing increasing cases in a troubling way.
Caplin pleads with Philadelphians to be cautious, wear masks, and don’t forget what they’ve learned about social distancing and maintaining clean and safe spaces.
“One of the things we didn’t think about as it got hotter (I mean 95 and 100 degrees), is that people will go inside to get air conditioning,” Caplin said. “So now you’re concentrating people inside of buildings, as opposed to being outside when it’s 75 and 85 degrees outside. There’s a concentration of people, which is increasing transmission and that may actually have an effect on the southern states that are starting to see an increase in cases.”
Although things may seem daunting, Caplin suggests keeping in mind that pharmaceutical companies around the world are working on therapies and vaccines, fortunately.
“That will change all of this discussion,” he said. “[But] If people don’t take heightened safety precautions, we will have another outbreak. This virus is just as dangerous as it was three months ago.”
It has also been suggested for businesses and organizations to put in place pre-screening systems.
“Implementing pre-screenings before entry to businesses, churches, and other organizations will require people to acknowledge whether they have symptoms or whether they think they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 in advance,” Caplin said.
“Tracking people, testing temperatures and confirming that they’ve gone through a pre- screening process will become very important,” he continued. “People’s behaviors are changing. If policies are implemented that reduce the transmission, and people carry forward what they’ve learned, we can end up with a much healthier population long term.”
“We can open this country and keep it safe simultaneously, but there needs to be plans in place for each location,” Caplin concluded.