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Dr. Gary Wiltz

Doctor has doubts about early return to normalcy

While there has been discussion nationally about potentially reopening the country for business around Easter Sunday as the United States currently battles COVID-19, local physician Dr. Gary Wiltz said he doesn’t think that may be possible.
Wiltz, chief executive officer of Teche Action Clinic, said it’s a waiting game to see if those that have been exposed to COVID-19 that are now idle will start to show symptoms.
“You have to give that at least 14 days, if not longer, especially in Louisiana,” Wiltz said Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t even want to think about it sometimes, but you got a million people in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but then all over Louisiana, the people that celebrated Mardi Gras, Houma, Lafayette, all these places that had big crowds, we have no idea how to trace those contacts, so that has to play out. Those people that were there that may have been exposed or went to other places so it’s going to take some patience and see.”
However, Wiltz said that if enough testing is done and enough negative results come back to give confidence that people can go back to work, he said he thinks at some juncture those citizens should be “phased back in.”
While Teche Action Clinic, which has locations from St. Mary Parish on east across south Louisiana, is testing for COVID-19, Wiltz said they have only conducted about five tests on patients in St. Mary Parish, not counting their health care professionals. He said they had a positive case each in Houma, Reserve and Thibodaux.
Wiltz said his agency tests patients for the flu first. If they exhibit symptoms of the flu, and if that test is negative, then they opt for the COVID-19 test “if they meet the criteria.
“That’s the other thing: We’re still seeing cases of the flu,” he said.
Beginning Thursday, Wiltz said his clinics will implement telemedicine on a large scale for the first time. He said they have 40 patients lined up to use the service, that can be downloaded via an app.
“We’ll see how that goes where we will be able to do a face-to-face with the patients at their home, and we’ll be available on our laptops and computers in the office,” he said.
Using telemedicine, Wiltz said his agency can service patients who are stable, while patients who may need more intense care will come to their office.
“We’re dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s still other patients out there that have chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, COPD, respiratory illnesses that need to be seen, so we still are seeing them and taking all the precautions,” Wiltz said.
With mandates closing schools and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order for nonessential employees, Wiltz said his agency has seen a decrease in patients.
“We had a drop-off of patients that did not come in because I think they were maybe confused and didn’t know they could still come in,” he said.
Using the telemedicine visits, Wiltz said he is hopeful they can see any patients that may have stayed home instead of coming in.
As for his advice to the public, Wiltz said in addition to recommendations already issued like social distancing, people should stay patient and make sure they check where their information is coming from, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the best source.
“Take it seriously,” he said of the virus.

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