As Nashville opens up, doctors remind us COVID-19 is very real and is here to stay for now

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s been 108 days since COVID-19 was first detected in the United States, Dr. James Hildreth, CEO and President of Meharry Medical College said Friday during Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s press conference.

As Nashville prepares to implement phase one of reopening on Monday, two doctors, including Dr. Hildreth are telling us that the threat remains real and COVID-19 isn’t magically going to just go away.

​”We have not reached the peak of infections in our country,” said Dr. Hildreth, “Even if we reach the peak, we have to go down the other side and even if the rate of decline is twice as fast as going up that means 2 million people will be infected and 100,000 people have died.”

From the get-go we’ve heard multiple numbers from multiple sources, leading to accusations that hospitals are increasing their COVID count for cash.​

Kathleen Weber Montgomery, MD, MPH, Surgical Pathology Fellow at Vanderbilt University Medical Center says that’s not true.

“Physicians are certainly not diagnosing COVID where it doesn’t exist in order to receive money,” said Dr. Montgomery, “Diagnosing a disease in a patient that doesn’t have that disease is Medicare fraud and I don’t think any of my colleagues would be interested in being a part of any sort of fraud.”

However, many still believe all pulmonary conditions are being diagnosed as COVID-19, Dr. Montgomery says that too, is not true.

You can see the different between a patient without COVID-19, with COVID-19 and with COPD.

“The idea that physicians are incorrectly diagnosing COVID-19 due to financial incentive is also ridiculous. Medicare sometimes bundles payments for some conditions (i.e. if you have a heart attack, Medicare may pay XX for your treatment) – it’s possible the hospital could get paid $13,000 for your COVID-19 admission, but do you know what that’s based on? The fact that the average cost of a hospital admission for a respiratory condition is $13,297,” Dr. Montgomery wrote on Facebook.

“I can assure you doctors are not willy nilly saying this patient came in with a cough and fever it must be COVID-19, we’re testing whenever we can, doing studies, CT scans, etc,” said Dr. Montgomery.

Testing in Tennessee continues to be a huge game-changer in our state, Dr. Hildreth pointed out Friday, but it’s not the cure.

​”I’m convinced well set a record for a vaccine in this case but the shortest time for the vaccine on record is 6 years for Ebola so we have to get used to the fact we’re going to be dealing with this virus for 18 months or longer​,” said Dr. Hildreth. “That means next week when we ease into phase one and ease into a new normal all of us need to be vigilant and do all the things we’ve done to keep our community safe… keep wearing our face coverings, washing hands frequently doing all the things we’ve learned to keep those that we love safe.”​

“We’ve had a very steady spread of COVID-19 patients,” said Dr Montgomery, “I can assure you its a real issue. I can also assure you social distancing measure we’re taking are working, we would have had a steeper incline. We prepared for the worst, and thankfully so far in Nashville the worst has not come.”

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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