Richard Friedman, co-chair of Mount Sinai Health System in New York, told CNBC on Tuesday that the prospect of the coronavirus in the fall will create a distinct set of challenges for hospitals and employers alike.
Mount Sinai will be prepared for a resurgence of Covid-19 with its staffing plans and personal protective equipment supply, Friedman said on “Closing Bell.” But, he said, “what will get complicated” in November and December is the presence of Covid-19 cases alongside seasonal influenza and the common cold.
People may “start sneezing and coughing and they won’t know, do I have a cold? Do I have a flu? Or do I have Covid?” said Friedman, who also is chairman of the merchant banking division at Goldman Sachs.
Mount Sinai is working with companies to create “advisory assignments” in preparation for the fall, when many public health experts have warned there could be a second spike in cases, Friedman said. It will be “a very, very stressful period when their employees don’t know what they have.”
“So that’s what we’re most worried about, about the next surge, is it will coincide with cold and flu season, and just no one knows how this is sort of going to meld together,” Friedman said. “We’re all going to learn, but Mount Sinai will be ready for this.”
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a White House press briefing last month that U.S. officials were preparing for both the coronavirus and seasonal flu.
“Next fall and winter, we’re going to have two viruses circulating and we’re going to have to distinguish between which is flu and which is the coronavirus,” Redfield said on April 22.
Mount Sinai Health System has multiple locations across hard-hit New York City, which has 196,623 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to the city’s health department. Daily cases are trending downward as the city seeks to ease some virus-related restrictions on business in mid-June.
“No more than 20% of our hospitals basically have Covid patients, and the other 80% has been cleaned and sanitized and is essentially reopened for mandatory or required kind of surgeries,” Friedman said, adding that the next step is getting approval from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resume elective procedures.
“That’s what comes next, is for people to resume their normal health care, which is critical, because if people basically stop and don’t go in for their procedures that they need to, that’s going to create a bigger issue,” Friedman said.