By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

During the COVID-19 crisis, the AFRO is celebrating Black practitioners who are continuing to serve their communities, either on the frontlines or through amended means of working.  This week the AFRO is introducing Dr. Fernando Daniels III.

AFRO: What kind of doctor are you and how long have you been practicing?

Daniels: I am an Emergency Medicine Physician, Former D.C. Fire & EMS Medical Director during 9/11 (September 11) and former Emergency Department Director of two local facilities. I’ve been practicing emergency medicine over 25 years.

Dr. Fernando Daniels III is an emergency medical physician. (Courtesy Photo)

AFRO: Did your training and years of experience prepare you to deal with such a virus such as COVID-19?

Daniels: My medical training in emergency medicine prepared me to deal with numerous medical and surgical illnesses that present to the emergency department.  I have had training on dealing with chemical, biologic, and radiologic emergencies.  However, I never imagined that I would be dealing with a global pandemic like COVID-19.  It has overwhelmed the hospitals in the cities and towns that it has affected.

AFRO: How has your job changed since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Daniels: Our jobs in emergency medicine will be forever changed until this virus is contained and mitigated. It is imperative that we max protect ourselves as frontline workers.  There was so much confusion during the early stages of the virus infiltrating our communities. For instance, there was differing opinions on who should or should not wear PPE (personal protective equipment) that were working in the frontlines of the facilities treating the COVID patients (i.e., hospitals, emergency departments, urgent care facilities, surgery centers, local clinics, and private health care offices).  We have had major health care institutions that discouraged their workers from wearing N-95 masks or certain PPE at work. Those facilities suffered numerous healthcare workers being exposed and out on quarantine, albeit preventable instances. We have had health care providers that have died that were taking care of infected patients that contracted the illness as well.  However, there was changing information per the CDC in the beginning on the exact transmission of the virus.  I do not see any foreseeable instance in the immediate future that those that are in direct patient areas will be unable to wear a N95 mask.  We still have a good number of patients that present asymptomatic and can infect those caring for them and others.

AFRO: What are some the most concerning aspects of the novel coronavirus as a health practitioner?

Daniels: There is such a variation on how some of these patients present that we cannot let our guards down at this juncture.  There are times that the patients that we are seeing in the ER are presenting for various other non-COVID symptoms and are found to be COVID positive during their emergency department visit. This illness has such a rapid progression and such devastating effects in some patients that it’s unlike anything we have encountered.

AFRO: Do you ever worry about your own health as a “frontliner” and how have you protected yourself up to this point?

Daniels: I absolutely worry about my health, my family’s health and all my hospital coworker’s health. Each time I go work I realize that my health and life are on the line. This is an illness that has killed and affected frontline workers in the hospital.  Every time I leave work, I am concerned that we are all safe.  I wear my full PPE when seeing all patients now, as we cannot assume that one does not have it.  I have had the full gamut of experiences with COVID-19, having patients that I have cared for affected by it, friends that survived it and some that have succumbed to it. My 103-year-old grandmother is at a facility that had an outbreak in Augusta, Georgia and she has tested positive for COVID-19 as well.         

AFRO: What’s your take on the disproportionate affect the virus is having on the Black community and why do you think it’s happening?

Daniels: This virus has affected the African American Community disproportionately as there was a lot of initial conflicting information and misconceptions that were conveyed within the community. As we receive data from states like Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan and New York, the African American community has been ravaged by the virus- as we have had local community death rates as high as 72 percent in those affected.  Once we receive more accurate demographic data across the Counties, we will have better numbers.  However, the African America and Latino communities have been disproportionately affected. A lot of this stems from the quality or lack of quality health care that has been afforded to a subset of Americans that have been receiving poor health care for years. those that have not had access to care because of a lack of insurance or facilities to serve the communities and possibly any inherit medical biases that they have experienced.  Most of those affected have preexisting conditions that occur, however, these conditions also affect others that had have better health care. Our communities must be proactive and wear masks when you are in public at all times- as we are just now fully understanding the COVID-19 transmission.  Practice social distancing and encourage others that we see with their masks in their hands or on their chin to put them on properly as we work on ridding our communities of this virus.  

AFRO: Do you have any suggestions on how to flatten the curve in the Black community and end the disparity in positive cases and deaths among African Americans?

Daniels: The Black and Latino communities must take charge and ensure that we always practice wearing masks when in public or at work.  Our community is at too much risk. Those that are not essential personnel do not need to go out in public unless it is for essential items.  Our youth and younger population need to heed the instructions seriously as they are vulnerable and do not need to be having Corona parties, etc. Hand washing is paramount.  It was disheartening to initially see those that work at the stores/ businesses that were deemed essential not wearing masks or gloves while serving the public.  There have been some great moves recently with masks being mandatory and the new barriers placed at stores etc. We must have testing available to all, provide masks for those who cannot afford them, readily have hand sanitizer available and at a reasonable price.  We must take our health care seriously and make commitments to our health. Take your medications properly and as instructed not when you feel like taking them. Eat properly and avoid any alcohol or drugs as they increase your risk for contracting the virus.  Sanitize where you live and practice excellent hand washing. Consider naturopathic supplements that will help boost the immune system.

When you recognize any signs of COVID-19, please see a physician ASAP for evaluation and testing. 

  • Fever, chills, muscle aches 
  • Persistent cough with upper respiratory symptoms
  • Pink eye may be a rare sign of COVID-19
  • Loss of taste or smell 
  • Coughing blood and tingling all over the body have also been reported.
  • COVID toes: redness or color change on the toes or sides of the feet a new finding still under research
  • Documented exposure with symptoms 

 

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor