Dr. Akash Goel
Dr. Akash Goel

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Now a physician in a major New York City hospital, a former St. Bede Academy student is learning more each hour about the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday night, prior to an announcement that 130 people had died so far in New York from COVID-19, Dr. Akash Goel said if the spread of the coronavirus continues to rise, there could be 10 times as many people in need of intensive care than there is space in intensive care units statewide.

“It’s getting a little bit harrowing,” he said.

He was glad that New York this past weekend proclaimed similar stay-at-home orders to those put in place March 21 by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Goel said New Yorkers still can get takeout or carry-out food, go to the Laundromat and take walks in the park. Whether they will practice proper social distancing at all times is another thing.

In addition, hospital staff members throughout the city and state have been scrambling to find personal protective equipment — gowns, gloves and most specifically, facemasks.

He said he had heard of some health staff members re-wearing masks, which is risky, but some health workers may feel it’s better to have some protection than no protection.

He said it’s good that governments are getting serious about seeking additional protective equipment, and said some are looking for protective gear from alternative sources. Much of the supply chain seems to be concentrated in China.

Goel said the scarcity of masks and protective equipment is real and worrisome.

“You never really think about something like that happening in the wealthiest and most developed country in the world,” he said.

He said there is a high incidence of severe illness in health care workers who are exposed. That’s likely because they are put into situations and need to perform procedures such as inserting breathing tubes when the virus can aerosolize (float in the air for a while).

Goel, a gastroenterologist now at Weill Cornell New York Presbyterian Hospital, said he worries that people are not getting the point of the importance of social distancing — staying at home except when necessary and staying at least six feet away from other people to
help prevent the person-to-person spread of the virus.

“I don’t know if they’ll get to the point they’re enforcing people to stay in their homes,” he said, of New York, referring to strict orders in Italy.

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