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COVID-19 ICU doctor praises social distancing in East Tennessee

A Knoxville pulmonologist expresses praise, concern for the current coronavirus fight, and for the one in the coming weeks.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The success of social distancing efforts across East Tennessee is playing out in local intensive care units, with fewer coronavirus patients than early models first predicted.

“We’re halfway through the marathon and if we can go another month of this social distancing, I think then we are bringing it home and it’s just the last two miles to finish up then,” said pulmonologist Dr. Jesse Doers, who is among the doctors and nurses in Knoxville caring for people with COVID-19.

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“I think overall, they are doing very well. I think what one of the great benefits we have is that because we have not been hit hard early on, we have had more time for preparation and we are more prepared than New York, Washington, DC, Seattle, and that gives us a huge advantage for when it does come," said Dr. Doers.

The Fellow with the American College of Chest Physicians also spoke about his biggest concern, centered on a “worst-case” model from the University of Washington.

“The third model is at this point if we decrease social distancing - go back to our normal behavior immediately - that there is a possibility that we could be absolutely overrun with the number of cases. And that would create quite a storm coming as late as mid-August,” explained Dr. Doers, who also expressed confidence the hospital system in Knoxville has enough ventilators to deal with a surge in patients.

“Luckily, we have a very strong basis of hospital systems in this community. I think we could do well. I worry about some of the more outlying places,” said Dr. Doers, pointing specifically to rural communities that have seen the availability of emergency healthcare disappear in recent years.

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