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DMC Chief Medical Officer on COVID-19 safety: 'The responsible thing is to get that influenza vaccine.'

Big House at night
Posted at 6:42 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 18:42:51-04

(WXYZ) — Experts are worried about a possible surge of COVID-19 cases in metro Detroit following this weekend.

This Saturday, the Michigan Wolverines will play the Michigan State Spartans at the Big House in Ann Arbor. Only family members of the players can attend the game, but there are fears of gatherings and parties where people could get infected.

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Related: Michigan extends epidemic order, imposes restrictions on indoor gathering sizes

Chief Medical Officer of the Detroit Medical Center Dr. Rudolph Valentini joined us on 7 UpFront and urged people to take precautions as there are a lot of major events, like the big game, happening in the days ahead.

"The COVID-19 virus is clearly a deadly actor and we have to respect it," Dr. Valentini says. "The best way you can protect yourself really is that six feet of distance, wear a mask, if you need to celebrate, celebrate in very small groups, ideally in your own little bubble. I really don't think those gatherings are healthy."

"The indoor events are more troubling than the outdoor events," he continued. "Even the outdoor events, it's very common when you're around friends to want to give them a high five. You have to keep yourself safe, so truthfully avoidance is not a bad way to go. I know the fans will be excited, but watch the game in your house, talk to friends on the phone, FaceTime, whatever you have to do, but I really think the more gatherings we have, the more we're inviting trouble."

There are also concerns surrounding both Halloween and Election Day on Tuesday.

Related: These are the top 7 alternatives to trick-or-treating this Halloween

"I think Halloween is a very fun holiday for kids especially, and I think most of us parents all enjoy watching the kids come to our door," Dr. Valentini says."I think a lot of communities are really toning it down. They may do something in their backyards for a small group of people, but you really try to control the traffic, you really try to control the situation. I think this really might be a year where we celebrate again as a family as opposed to mingling in neighborhoods. I think every time you go to another door, you bring your germs with you and you're either going to share what you have or pick something up. So, I think laying low on Halloween is still not a bad thing to do. You could dress up. You can celebrate as family. That's my best recommendation."

Even though many people have already voted, many others are expected to head to the polls come Election Day. There are ways you can protect yourself if you're planning to cast your vote this Tuesday.

"If you're going to vote in person, be cautious, give that person behind you or in front of you six feet, wear your mask, hand sanitizer is hopefully everywhere around the voting booth," he said. "So you make sure you if you use a pen to cast your ballot you sanitize before and after touching it. The things we've been talking about since March. They really do work. I think when we keep that distance, when we wear a mask, we sanitize our hands, we don't shake hands, we have to use those somewhat anti-social behaviors because this is what we have to do to get through this year."

There are even fears hospitals could be facing a surge in patients that may test their capacities.

"We're absolutely prepared, we're here to serve our community," Dr. Valentini says. "Fortunately, for the moment, southeastern Michigan has not been hit terribly hard, but we do see trends in some of our neighboring hospitals where caseloads are starting to go up, so we as a community have to do what we can to control the spread of the virus. Get our flu vaccine, flu can put 500,000 Americans in the hospital every year, and last year the CDC had about 34,000 deaths from influenza. So those are, in large part, preventable with a flu vaccine. So, there's no reason to put a strain on our healthcare system by adding flu to a situation where the COVID is something we have a hard time controlling. We don't have a vaccine for COVID. We have one for influenza. The responsible thing is to get that influenza vaccine, as long as there is not a contraindication, which in most cases there is not."

On Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services revised and extended its epidemic order to contain the spread of COVID-19. The new order has added provisions to target indoor gatherings. Bars and restaurants will also now be required to collect names and numbers from patrons for contact tracing.

Watch the full interview with Dr. Valentini in the video player above.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.