Baker gives insight on COVID-19

By NICOLE SMITH
Posted 4/2/20

Dr. Ike Baker, a general surgeon in Jasper, recently discussed all things COVID-19 with the Daily Mountain Eagle.

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Baker gives insight on COVID-19

Posted

Dr. Ike Baker, a general surgeon in Jasper, recently discussed all things COVID-19 with the Daily Mountain Eagle.

Baker recently took to Facebook to discuss the county’s ongoing response to COVID-19, and, in an in-depth interview with the Eagle, Baker first wanted to clear up any misconceptions about the virus and how to treat its symptoms.  

“There are several ‘myths’ or pieces of misinformation that are circling around this virus, honestly too many to count, but some of the main ones that I would like to address are the ones that can affect patient care or how people go about their day,” he said.

Baker said one misconception is that NSAIDs (such as Advil or Motrin) to reduce fever and pain can actually make the symptoms of COVID-19 worse. 

“This appears to be false. I cannot find any current evidence that supports it. The FDA and WHO have even addressed it,” Baker said. “There is also some discussion on whether patients should be taking some medications that deal with blood pressure. The thought is that these medications also affect the lungs and could worsen the virus. This also appears to be false, and people should not stop taking their medications unless discussed with their doctor or nurse practitioner.” 

If anyone was to develop symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough or other respiratory issues, Baker said he wants to clarify the process people should take in seeking care. 

“Many want to rush to the ER, which is not the right response. Yes, heading straight to the ER with a cough and a fever currently isn't the right thing to do,” Baker said. “It's also not the right thing to do to head straight to your doctor or nurse practitioner’s office. If you have mild symptoms, the right thing to do is call your primary provider and get their advice on what the next step should be at that time.”

He said many medical professionals will advise staying at home and self-quarantining, based on the severity of symptoms. It may also be suggested that the patient visit a COVID-19 testing center. 

“The idea right now is to keep people out of the ER and out of the hospital if possible. We need to preserve supplies, staff and room. If you think you are having more severe symptoms, like shortness of breath, then going to the ER would be the right thing,” Baker said. “However, you need to notify the ER you are coming or call 911 so they can take precautions. As always, if you think you are having a medical emergency call 911.” 

As of 1 p.m. on Thursday, Walker County had 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 1,200 cases were confirmed in Alabama. Baker said he expects the number of cases in Walker County to rise, due to the number of pending and backlogged tests.

“The projections seem to put Alabama's peak around April 20th. Hopefully that peak is lower in number as long as we continue to social distance and are able to isolate positive cases with quicker testing,” Baker said. 

While Baker is not a spokesperson for the Tenet-owned Walker Baptist medical facility, Baker does perform surgeries at the hospital as a general surgeon. Baker said, however, that he does believe the hospital is currently equipped to treat COVID-19 patients, if necessary.

Tenet did confirm this week that COVID-19 patients are being treated at Tenet facilities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean COVID-19 patients are at Walker Baptist. Tenet wouldn’t confirm what facilities were treating patients infected with the virus.

Tenet owns a network of Brookwood Baptist Health facilities, which include Walker, Princeton, Shelby, Citizens and Brookwood hospitals.

“We are equipped to treat most ailments that come through our doors, but as a smaller, rural hospital, we have our limits,” Baker said of Walker Baptist. “For most patients with COVID-19, they require little to no care except supportive treatments. For those that require a mechanical ventilator, we also can take care of those patients to a point. There will be situations where someone needs to be transferred, but it would be for more critical patients.” 

Baker further stated that the hospital is stocked with PPE (personal protective equipment) for medical professionals. 

“With a new test coming out this week, we should be able to detect the virus within a few minutes. Earlier tests could take days. If this test becomes available here, it will help protect our supply,” he said. “We will be able to limit the amount of PPE used since we can rule out patients quickly. The supply depends on a lot of different factors, but I know our local administrators are working hard to obtain and keep the equipment in case we need it.” 

Baker said the best thing people can do right now is practice social distancing, which will ultimately limit the spread of the virus and reduce the number of deaths.  

“We have a great sense of pride in our community. We have come so far in regards to the businesses that have been opened over the last several years. We want to support and keep them going through this time. We also want to try and keep a sense of normalcy,” Baker said. “There is also great anxiety and some fear for the unknown around this virus. We don't really know what will happen. I'll admit I was an early skeptic for the breadth of this disease, but I have physician friends that work on the west coast and know of people living in China. The danger is real, even in a rural community. It affects everyone.”

Baker added that while the majority of patients do recover from COVID-19, it is much more difficult for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems to fight the virus. 

“We have so much lung disease in this area. So many moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers, and even some great-grandparents that live with COPD, emphysema, asthma, or other diseases like diabetes or hypertension,” he said. “They have the highest risk of dying from this virus. I want people to think about them. It's not just about keeping yourself safe and healthy. It's about protecting the most vulnerable.”