In recent weeks, Dr. Ogechika Alozie, a 47-year-old infectious disease specialist and Del Sol Medical Center’s chief medical officer, has become El Paso’s Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Like Fauci, an advisor to six U.S. presidents, Dr. Alozie has been answering the tough questions about the COVID-19 crisis and what lies in store carefully but plainly in El Paso.
Unlike Fauci, no one’s calling for his resignation, and he wants to keep it that way.
So, where are we in dealing with COVID-19, and how careful should we be in the coming weeks and months to avoid contracting a disease that is many times deadlier than the flu?
“Regardless of what someone else may be telling us, one of the first things that’s important for all of us to understand is that we’re going to be on a long journey,” Dr. Alozie told El Paso Inc. on Friday. “I’ll steal an analogy from somebody that I learned from years ago. We’re in the second inning of a nine-inning baseball game.
“This is not the end. I don’t even think this is the middle. This is just the beginning. So should we relax? It depends on what your level of stress is to begin with. I think that it’s fair for people to understand that the way we engage with each other could probably be changed for quite some time.”
His recommendations for the indefinite future are the same as those everyone has been hearing for at least two months: wash your hands, try not to touch your face, wear a face mask anywhere you can and try to reduce your movements – locally and globally.
“Understanding that, we can’t live in a locked-up society for the next 12 to 18 months pending a vaccine or pending new therapeutics, and we’re going to have to find a way to live with the virus,” he said. “But how we determine what that really is, that’s a political conversation, not a financial conversation.”
What about going to restaurants and social distancing or continuing to take deliveries of meals and household needs amid the political pressures to open up the economy?
Despite all of the modern advancements in medicine and all that is known about viruses, he said, the medical community doesn’t really know that much about viruses – especially COVID-19.
What is known is scary by any measure.
“We know that this is a virus that to get to herd immunity, we’re going to need anywhere from 60% to 70%, potentially 80%, of the population to become exposed and/or infected by it,” Dr. Alozie said. “Or, we’re going to need a viable vaccine candidate, or we’re going to need a therapy that reduces our fear.
“And so those are the scientific pieces of the conversation. How the politics and economics balance on those, truly, those decisions are for politicians to make. I would say that we’re still early in this process.”
Like Dr. Fauci, Dr. Alozie shies away from telling politicians what to do, but he doesn’t candy-coat the choices – and they will be hard ones. He prefers to talk of personal options.
“The multiple options are try to be safe,” he said.
Don’t move around if it’s not necessary. Wear a face mask on those occasions and wash your hands often.
“Like I said, we can’t stay locked up for 18 months,” Alozie said. “This virus is going to take its toll on the community. We have to be clear about that to people.
“I think we can protect our most vulnerable, whether it’s in nursing homes, people that are elderly and have comorbid conditions, right? We probably have to be a lot more protective of them.”
Then come the hard political questions about testing and contact tracing and isolation strategies, opening schools and a new series of hard decisions.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at email@example.com or call (915) 630-6622.