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KY’s Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Steven Stack, says we could be seeing ‘calm before the storm’

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

In a video interview with the American Medical Association, Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said if a large part of the population gets sick and becomes critically ill in a short period of time, the health care industry will run out of supplies.

“Most of us rely on a supply chain that often as short as a three-day, just in time, logistics supply chain,” he said. “Most hospitals and others keep on hand just enough materials to get through the next few days because they have a steady stream of inventory coming in to supply these materials.”

However, those materials come mostly from China, which was the first place the virus surfaced, he said.

Dr. Steven Stack

“Now, we have problems across the whole world, where countries like China, South Korea, Italy and Iran, and now we have Spain and France and of course the United States, who are facing this challenge all roughly at the same time, or a very short period of time,” he said. “So, the supply chains are disrupted.”

Complicating the issue is those who work in factories and other places need to do social distancing, so they don’t operate in their normal manner, Stack said.

What Stack says he is telling physicians and hospital administrators is this somber truth. “You must operate on the assumption that the personal protective equipment you have, is all you’re going to have,” he said. “That the resources you have, are all you’re going to have.”

He says that is why earlier this week they told hospitals and medical providers to cancel all non-emergency procedures. 

“Because we have to very quickly free up as much capacity in our hospitals as possible, in order to ensure that when the number of sick people start to increase, that our doctors, our nurses, our respiratory therapists, our pharmacists and paramedics, are fully available to help people who are most in danger and most in need.”

As he and Gov. Andy Beshear have mentioned frequently at daily press conferences on the coronavirus, Stack said it’s important to remember “80 percent of folks are going to be fine and we will get through this. But we’ll get through this because we rally and come together, and we take these steps quickly and comprehensively to try and free up capacity and minimize the burden of the disease.”

The AMA on Thursday issued a call to the Trump Administration for a “Marshall Plan” of sorts to ensure health care workers have the needed equipment to combat the pandemic.

Stack says it’s an appropriate term to use as the Marshall Plan was used to rebuild Europe following World War II and added another analogy.

“This really is the calm before the storm,” he said. “It’s like there’s a Category 5 hurricane at sea, about seven to 10 days away. We know it’s going to come, and we know it’s going to hit. But if we take action now, we can take steps to protect people and ensure people have what they need to survive the onslaught of the hurricane.  That’s what we’re facing.”

Stack said more resources are needed and more support from the federal government “because it is the entity in our nation with the most resources and capacity to come up with ways to rapidly build supply chains make testing widely available, to make personal protective equipment and other necessary medical resources widely available.”

He talked about actions taken like closing state government and many businesses to halt the spread of the coronavirus, adding, “We know there is going to be an enormous effort required after this passes to address all the economic implications of what we’ve done.”

Stack is himself a past president of the AMA.

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