This week I had the opportunity to have a 30-minute conversation with Dr. Robin LaCroix, the Pediatric Department Chair, Medical Director of the Children’s hospital, and Infectious Disease Specialist at Prisma Health. Dr. LaCroix is a 1986 USC Medical School alumnus. Upon graduation and after her fellowship at Emory, she returned to South Carolina to practice medicine. She has been practicing in Greenville now for almost 30 years. In addition to her many achievements and honors, Dr. LaCroix is above all else a mother of two boys. We had a conversation that focused around keeping our children and families safe during this very unknown and concerning time with this new virus known as COVID-19. It was reassuring to get information from her as she is a great community resource working the front lines of this situation.
This is what I learned from our conversation:
Why is this so scary?
Because we just don’t know.
“The most fear-inducing aspect of this pandemic is the fact that we just don’t know so much about this virus. We don’t have the data yet. All of the when, why, and how’s are not quite figured out. With a virus like the flu, we can anticipate a season, a trend, the arch of what will happen. Testing is readily available, medicines are on the market—so while it is still a devastating virus, it is something we “know,” this one is an unknown”. Dr. LaCroix mentions that we are still in a very active flu season that has hospitalized 350,000 and killed many. It has to this point, killed many more than COVID-19. However, the complete data and run of COVID-19 is not in yet and far from being over. At present, Dr. LaCroix believes this new virus to be milder than our seasonal flu. This is based on the information and data coming from some of the hardest-hit areas like China and Korea.
Part of the reason why this is so slow in diagnosing is the fact that we are developing testing behind the 8 ball on this one. We are having to create a test, result it, and verify results. When creating tests like these, it is time-consuming. The first rounds of testing may have given false readings and each component and reagent had to be re-examined and tested to ensure accuracy. Because this is still new testing, this limits the number of tests that can be resulted daily. It is not like the rapid flu or strep tests we can walk in and have done in minutes. Our providers are having to triage patients with similar symptoms to determine who has the risk factors to be COVID-19 positive from those who might have a cold or seasonal flu to allocate the limited testing resources to the right patients. Once a patient is tested on the local level and gets a presumptive positive, it then has to be confirmed by CDC testing. This takes additional time and thus gives us a 14-day quarantine to get each test done twice and verified. This process is expected to streamline as more information is known about the virus and testing advances.
Many people become armchair doctors and experts in times like these with good intentions. This can lead to misinformation, fear, and dangerous situations. Verify the source of the information you are getting and ask your provider before trying home remedies. The CDC, WHO, and area health systems have all put out information on this virus and what precautions should be taken. These organizations update these things regularly so please fact check before all else, as this unfolds.
Children and vulnerable population
So far, we are seeing children fair well with this virus. From information out of China and Korea on how children are doing with this, we see encouraging data. Dr. LaCroix stated, “It appears children are doing relatively well.” The danger seems to be coming from the children bringing the virus home to those who are vulnerable. Parents, grandparents, and even other children who have underlying health issues (especially respiratory-related), or have a weakened immune system are at greatest risk.
Dr. LaCroix’s Recommendations
So how do we prepare for this? Her recommendations are:
SOAP and WATER, best and first line of defense….wash.your.hands!!! Nothing beats old fashioned hand hygiene, a good scrub of soap and water.
Kleenex…. a big one for us parents is to get our children to use a Kleenex to wipe their noses, then throw it away (another huge piece in combating this is not leaving dirty tissues around), and lastly to complete the trifecta, WASH your hands!!! No free sneezing or wiping on sleeves.
Stay home! Keep your children home if they are sick. We all have to work and have things we need to be at, but it is imperative at this time to stay home when even the smallest hint of sickness is observed. With a virus that appears to have a 4-day incubation period without symptoms, we must keep vigilant about keeping those who are not feeling well home to recover. This will help to keep this from spreading. Dr. LaCroix and I discussed how that since this virus appears so mild that people around us will have it and not even realize it. They will assume because it is so mild it is just a cold or other virus and because they won’t just stay home it will spread rapidly through our communities. So, this is a very important step. Know the symptoms and be proactive in safeguarding yourselves and others. Keep safe social distances as this so far has been confirmed to be spread by droplet and airborne avenues.
Clean… Another important step in curbing this virus is to stay on top of cleaning and disinfecting high touch areas in your homes and public. Of course, after cleaning those areas, wash your hands. Hand sanitizer is a great option to use in the absence of soap and water, and even in a pinch regular rubbing alcohol will help kill the virus. But always use these products appropriately and safely.
Common Sense….stay away from crowds, don’t touch your face, eyes, nose, and mouth, and don’t overreact. Check on your friends and neighbors who might need help because of job closures, health risks, and lack of resources. Stay calm and have a plan. Plan for your regular needs and how you can alternatively accomplish other activities that would put you at risk for exposure. And absolutely from the expert’s mouth to my ears, “Toilet paper has nothing to do with this virus.” No more hoarding the good stuff people. Let’s just buy our normal share and be kind to others!
I thanked Dr. LaCroix for her time as she is in even higher demand right now and ended our conversation. iOnGreenville is your event source and entertainment guide to our great city and the surrounding upstate regions, as such we strive to keep you up to date with all the cancellations, delays, and schedule changes as they are being announced. We also want to keep you informed of what resources are out there for you and your family to utilize during all of this as well. Below are some valuable resources and links regarding symptoms, schooling and more.
• CDC symptoms to know
• If you have symptoms, a virtual visit with Prisma Health can be found here
• Bon Secours Mercy Health Coronavirus updates, information, and restrictions
• MUSC free Covid-19 virtual screening
• Greenville County Schools Coronavirus statement
• Alternative school options, K12.com
• South Carolina Department of Education resources and statements
Stay tuned for more updates as we go through this event. Until then all of you hoarding toilet paper for no reason, how about let’s “take one down pass it around”….you will still have 99 rolls of toilet paper on the wall…
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