COVID-19 Q&A: Preparing for new school year, flu season

Dr. Jeremy Cauwels outlines plans to prep for influenza and coronavirus vaccines

A Sanford doctor and news host sit talking in a board room with the Sanford Health logo on a woodgrain wall.

From an unprecedented new school year to the upcoming flu season, there’s no slowing down the conversation about the novel coronavirus and its impacts on our community.

Jeremy Cauwels, M.D., is senior vice president of clinic quality at Sanford Health and medical officer for Sanford Health Plan. He sat down with Sanford Health News on Aug. 18 to talk safety and look ahead to the coming months.

Watch now: Facebook Live Q&A with Dr. Jeremy Cauwels

The latest numbers for preventive screenings and routine immunizations are showing a rising trend from March through July.

What concerned Dr. Cauwels was the drop in diagnoses for breast cancer from one diagnosis per day to one per week.

“That means, somewhere in the world we live in, there are about six people who aren’t coming in to get screened who would have a diagnosis we could actively treat and probably prevent serious complications if we can get them in sooner and faster,” Dr. Cauwels said.

“We are 100% ready to provide care.”

Learn more: How Sanford Health is keeping clinics safe

Going back to school

Sanford Health medical experts are actively leading conversations with superintendents all over South Dakota, where Sanford Health is based, to make sure schools are ready.

“I would plan on the fact that COVID-19 will be recognized in the school at some point. Not every kid will be exposed,” Dr. Cauwels said. “The rules about distance, hand-washing and wearing a face mask still apply.”

He encourages teaching kids about social distancing and when it’s appropriate to wear a mask.

“We need to start recognizing teachers for the heroes that they are,” he said. “In this world, I don’t know if there’s a place where we’ve asked people to come in and be as safe as they can, with really no medical training, and do it while already being given a huge job educating our children.

“Thank you very much for all of the work that you’re doing and for all of the work ahead in the next school year.”

Preparing for flu season

This flu season comes coupled with the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Cauwels hopes the increased awareness of viruses means more people will get vaccinated against the flu virus.

“We’ve already made our plans for the season. We already know we’re getting extra doses of flu shots as we’ll see extra people interested.”

This year, health care leaders are keeping COVID-19 safety precautions in mind, like social distancing.

“We’re rolling those balls forward to make sure we’re prepared to have enough flu vaccine and get it to the people who want it and need it,” Dr. Cauwels said.

Where’s the vaccine?

The latest research shows the United States may test up to seven COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Cauwels said. Sanford Health has received approval to test two of them, most likely in North and South Dakota.

“The good news is, nationwide, we’re spreading the blanket fairly widely and trying to look at every avenue we can to generate immunity for COVID. We not only want to find a vaccine but the best vaccine.”

With the development, he says, we’ll accomplish two things.

“One, we’ll stick to the FDA safety standards which is key when it comes to a vaccine. Second, we’ll likely win the race to the fastest ever vaccine for widespread use.”

Stick with Sanford Health News as we continue conversations, sitting down with leaders for the latest information.

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Posted In Back to School, Children's, Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Flu

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