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ICU Doctor Responds To Trump Comment: Don't Be Afraid Of COVID-19

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How does all this look if you're a doctor treating coronavirus patients? Dr. Jamil Madi is the chief of critical care medicine at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas. In July, he came on this program and described the virus hitting his community like a, quote, "tsunami." Now he's back. Dr. Madi, good morning.

JAMIL MADI: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: When you hear the president say to people, don't be afraid of it, don't be afraid of the coronavirus, don't let it dominate your life, what do you think?

MADI: Well, the coronavirus is still around. It's still with us. We still are having cases in the hospitals. We are in a much, much better place right now than we were a few months ago. But we still are getting cases. We still are getting infected people and people being admitted to the hospital. The virus is still here, and it's not going away. And as long as we don't have the exact therapeutics for it, including the vaccines, we need to continue to be vigilant about, you know, doing the right things, including social distancing and hand-washing and face masks.

INSKEEP: Well, don't be afraid sounds like a positive message. You wouldn't want anybody to be afraid. But should we actually be afraid still of the virus or at least respect it?

MADI: We definitely need to respect it. We definitely need to be cautious. I would probably understand where the president is coming from in terms of, you know, portraying an image of resilience and strength after he himself has gone through this. I would also understand, you know, at the same time that although you want to talk about being strong and moving forward - and we all have to. We cannot keep on, you know, being locked up in our houses and shut down. And I understand that fully. But at the same time, we also have to sympathize with the tragedies that have occurred in the past, including the deaths of over 200,000 people and the people that have been impacted by that. Remember that for every person that has succumbed to the disease, there might be another 50 or 100 people who know that person who have been traumatized or been affected by the disease. So we're talking about millions of people who have been affected in one way or the other from this disease.

INSKEEP: Have you felt over the past several months that the federal government has been getting you the assistance that you need and the public messaging that you need to keep people safe and to treat people?

MADI: We have received federal assistance in terms of staffing and nursing and other medical staff in to the hospitals. And we are very grateful for what they have done, including the Department of Defense, with the Army and Navy, who have helped us out a lot in the hospitals in terms of when we had the large surge. And when it comes to the message about social distancing and masking, it mostly depends on the local communities, the leaders in the communities to do their jobs in sort of giving out the message and the right message to the people so - and one community might differ from one other community in terms of what could be the right message by the mayor, by the public health officials. It has to do with these efforts done at the local level.

INSKEEP: Meaning that it's up to local officials to deliver credible messaging, is that what you're telling me, sir?

MADI: Correct.

INSKEEP: Has there been a lot of confusion about things like whether to wear a mask locally?

MADI: There has been. Our local leaders have been strong. Our judges have been strong in terms of conveying the message. They have been on social media, on the news quite frequently to convey the message to the public. And I think the public has done a good job lately compared to initially and early on in the disease or in the pandemic, where there is more public awareness. You see more people wearing masks. You see more social distancing. You - in terms of restaurants and public places, they are going by the guidelines. And I think that's a good thing. I think that's one of the reasons why the pandemic right now seems to be at a much cooler place than it was a few months ago.

INSKEEP: Dr. Madi, thank you very much.

MADI: I appreciate you.

INSKEEP: That's Dr. Jamil Madi in Harlingen, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.