GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Dr. Michael Canady, M.D., MBA of Gallipolis, CEO Holzer Health System, recently accompanied Gov. Mike DeWine to a press event specifically aimed at addressing the spread of COVID-19 in southeastern Ohio. The governor flew into the Huntington Jet Center at Tri-State Airport, located in Ceredo, W.Va. to conduct the event with invited media.
Back in March, the governor convened a group of health advisors from the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) to advise DeWine on the state of COVID-19 in their areas, with Canady representing the southeastern part of Ohio.
Canady recently spoke with Ohio Valley Publishing (OVP), sharing many of his thoughts also expressed at the governor’s press event earlier this month, as it relates to COVID-19 in the OVP readership area, which includes Gallia and Meigs in Ohio and Mason County in West Virginia.
With a recent surge in cases across the area, Canady was asked what, in his opinion, is the cause?
He said he personally felt there was no one cause but several which could be contributing, including the Halloween holiday, asymptomatic students in schools, family gatherings, church gatherings, etc. as possible culprits, but certainly, not all. He stressed there is a lag time of two to three weeks between when exposure occurs and increases in cases and hospitalizations.
He also said he felt, since the area didn’t see a surge of cases early on in the pandemic similar to what the area is experiencing now, followed by slower months in the late spring and portions of the summer, it wasn’t “real to some.” He felt this could’ve also contributed to a lax in mask wearing as well.
With the holiday season now in high gear, COVID-19 case numbers higher than any other time during the pandemic and influenza season on the horizon, Canady said people should minimize public exposure.
“If you don’t need to be out, don’t go out,” he said. “Home is the safest place, particularly with small family units. Plan your trips to the grocery store…the least number of trips you can make in public settings, the better.”
Canady stressed buying local but checking to see if you can purchase products/gifts online — many local merchants have also adapted to offer online ordering options, with curbside delivery and pickup.
Canady said he felt if mask wearing was done at least for the next three weeks, the numbers would drop “dramatically.
As he did alongside the governor, he explained, the mask is not for the individual who wears one but those who come in contact with them. He also stressed social distancing and good hand hygiene go along with mask wearing to protect as many people as possible.
Canady explained some people have had the virus or known people who had it with relatively few or minor symptoms but that doesn’t mean the virus affects everyone the same. The virus can be “selective” and there’s “no way to predict” who becomes seriously ill or dies, he explained.
Like many health systems, the virus has affected Holzer which, in the beginning of the pandemic, saw a small percentage of possible COVID-19 patients under observation/investigation for the virus return a positive test – now, it’s the overwhelming percentage of them, according to the CEO.
However, as of this interview, Holzer still had beds and resources available to conduct its daily operations, and a contingency plan to free up beds, if needed, according to Canady.
With much talk of vaccines on the horizon, Canady said that is definitely on Holzer’s radar and the facility has applied to be a distribution center.
When asked about the safety of the vaccine, he explained, “If the the FDA approves it, it’s safe, despite being fast-tracked. If people ask, ‘should I take it?’ I answer, ‘yes, yesterday if you can get it.’ If there was someone standing with a needle in my doorway right now (with the vaccine), I would take it.”
As for the advisory group he’s on, Canady said it meets for a one-hour virtual call every week to discuss and raise issues with representatives from OHA. Canady, who credits OHA representatives for their work in the group, said the hope is those concerns reach the governor and he believes they do, along with an exchange of ideas from health care systems across Ohio, all with different needs.
© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.