Manage episode 256075701 series 2623091
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- The first infections of the coronavirus were linked back to a live animal market that was selling meat in Wuhan, China.
- The coronavirus is spread by person-to-person contact.
- The virus is contagious and the symptoms are flu-like.
- It seems like those that have become the most ill from the virus are the elderly or those that have some pre-existing medical conditions, such as, maybe, COPD or heart trouble or diabetes.
- An outer coat is around the coronavirus. It is an enveloped virus making it sensitive to alcohol, lysol, and most sanitizers.
- There was a fourth case of coronavirus diagnosed in the state of Tennessee.
- “Governor Lee has been very proactive, just in my opinion, same as President Trump and the CDC and going ahead and starting to educate the public.” - Senator Bailey
- If you think that you have flu-like symptoms, stay at home, and then contact your physician and establish an appointment that you can go into where they can see you at that time.
- The coronavirus has a long incubation period, 10 to 14 days, so people can spread the virus even if they’re not sick.
- With the flu, somebody has to have symptoms within a day or two, certainly not 14 days. So usually if people don’t have symptoms, then they’re not contagious with the flu.
- Even if a vaccine is created, it still may take a year for it to be released to the public. It has to be tested first.
Announcer: For the politics of Nashville, to the history of the Upper Cumberland, this is the Backroads and Backstories podcast, with Senator Paul Bailey.
Senator Bailey: Hello, this is State Senator Paul Bailey, with your podcast, Backroads and Backstories. Today we’re joined by State Senator Richard Briggs from Knoxville, who is a cardiac surgeon, as well as State Senator and Doctor, Joey Hensley of Hohenwald, Tennessee.
Senator Bailey: In today’s podcast, we’re going to be discussing the Coronavirus and the effect that it’s having, not only here in Tennessee, but around the world. But before we began talking about the Coronavirus, Dr. Briggs, I’d like for you to introduce yourself to the audience and tell a little bit about your military service and also about the fact that you are a cardiac surgeon and you’re still practicing today.
Senator Bailey: And I know that you go to some Indian reservations, if I’m not mistaken, and you do some, is it... charity work there?
Senator Briggs: No, they pay me for it.
Senator Bailey: Oh, well, of course, I forgot you’re a doctor. [laughing]. So Dr. Briggs, sometimes you have many titles. I don’t know whether to call you Doctor, Senator, Colonel, or friend, but for the most part, thank you and welcome to today’s show. And so, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Senator Briggs: Well, first of all, thank you for having us on here. And I’m State Senator Richard Briggs from Knoxville, Tennessee. I have a, really, a very long career doing a lot of different things. My actual profession when I’m not in Nashville being a State Senator is that I do heart surgery and some lung surgery in Knoxville, Tennessee. I also was in the army for 38 years, I retired as a full Colonel. I did two tours in Iraq during the most recent war.
I was in Somalia back in 1993. I was in Afghanistan in 2004. And even in Korea, back in the 1980s. I know I had a lady asked me one time was I in Korea during the war? And I wasn’t even born when the war started, and that would make me close to 90 years old. I know I haven’t weathered too well, but I wasn’t there during the war.
Senator Bailey: Well, I understand, and so how many tours did you do during the Gulf War era?
Senator Briggs: Well, if you go back to Desert Storm, I was in a MASH hospital, and that was actually my first trip to Iraq. And then I was in Afghanistan. By this time, I was the senior trauma surgeon at a combat support hospital. And then about a year and a half after that, I was in Baghdad, Iraq, where I was the senior officer at the, actually, the busiest and the largest hospital in Baghdad.
Senator Bailey: And although your cardiac surgeon I think you told me at one point in time when you were there running the MASH hospital, that you did multiple surgeries. It just wasn’t limited to cardiac surgery.
Senator Briggs: No, actually, the training for a cardiac surgeon means that you have to have at least five years in board certification in general surgery, and your general surgeons are the ones that are going to be doing gall bladders, appendixes, they’re going to be doing the general trauma surgery, including some orthopedics and some neurosurgery, whatever comes along, but when I was in Afghanistan, we were still in tents. And we had just two orthopedic surgeons and two general surgeons, so whatever came through the door, we either did it or it didn’t get done.
Senator Bailey: Oh, wow, that’s awesome. Now your public service as far as on the political side, you served as a county commissioner in Knox County, and now serving on your second term as a state senator. You and I came in as freshmen together in 2014, and developed a friendship and certainly appreciate you, Dr. Briggs, and so, tell us just a brief summary of your political career.
Senator Briggs: Well, it really goes back to 2007 and 2008 in Knox County. I ran for the county commission and was sworn in as a county commissioner in February of 2008. And I served on the county commission for seven years until I was elected to the state Senate. And I think you were probably sworn in just a couple of minutes before I was because your name was B-A and mine is B-R. [laughing]
Senator Bailey: That’s right I—
Senator Briggs: And so you got a little bit of seniority with me there. But I’ve been in the state Senate now, just as you have, since November of 2014. And we’ve served together since then.
Senator Bailey: Yes. And Senator Briggs, you, certainly because of your medical background, I know that you carry a lot of bills relative to health care in the Senate, which, chairing the Commerce Committee, from time to time there are health-related bills that move through that committee and so we have the opportunity to work with you on those bills, and then you serve on finance as well as the Health Committee?
Senator Briggs: No, actually, I went off the Health Committee two years ago and I’m on the Finance Committee, and also the Transportation Committee, and I was—
Senator Bailey: That’s right, you and I served together there.
Senator Briggs: Yes. And then I am the chairman of the Ethics Committee, and we don’t have to meet unless someone’s getting in trouble, and we’ve been meeting a little bit more often than maybe we should, up here. But that’s just a job that when some issue comes up, it gets referred to our committee.
Senator Bailey: Very good. Doctor Hensley. Again, you have multiple titles. We call you Doctor, we call you Senator, we call you friend. From time to time, when, when I’m in your committee, I call you Chairman. So you hail all the way from Hohenwald, Tennessee.
Senator Hensley: Hohenwald, Tennessee. Paul, it’s good to be here with you, first of all, and it’s a privilege to know you and to be your friend and, and Dr. Briggs, and I came in the Senate in 2012, so I have a couple years on y’all, but I served 10 years in the house before that. So, but going back, yes, I’m from Hohenwald, which is this small town, that’s my hometown. I went to school at community college, Columbia State, and went to Memphis state, and then UT Memphis to get my medical degree, and then came back to Hohenwald where I grew up, and I’ve been practicing there 34 years and—
Senator Bailey: Wow, 34 years, I didn’t realize that.
Senator Hensley: One of these days, I’m going to get it right and stop practicing but I’m still practicing at it, so… But I—
Senator Bailey: And you run a family practice.
Senator Hensley: I have a solo family practice. I have a nurse practitioner, works with me, but like I said, I’ve been there 34 years, and so I see everything from infants, babies to elderly people, everything in between. I see patients in the nursing home. I don’t deliver babies, even though I did when I first started practicing, I delivered babies, but I don’t do that anymore. And actually, my county doesn’t have a hospital—
Senator Bailey: Oh, wow.
Senator Hensley: —and hasn’t had a hospital for the last 25 years. So our closest hospitals about 35 miles away.
Senator Bailey: Is that is that in Columbia?
Senator Hensley: In Columbia, Tennessee, right. Murray county has a big hospital. So that’s our closest hospital, so—but I’ve had the privilege to practice medicine and take care of people that I grew up with and friends and over the years of acquaintances, people that I go to church with, and see in town, I see at Walmart and I have the privilege to take care of them. But I served on the school board there in Hohenwald for 12 years.
Senator Bailey: Now, that’s a question that I was going to ask you because I usually tell folks that—I’m in Tennessee history because I was a county commissioner, a state representative and elected a state Senator all in one year, but you hold Tennessee history as being a school board member, a county commissioner and a state representative all at the same time. Is that correct?
Senator Hensley: That’s correct. Yes. I did that two years because I actually ran for the county commission before I really determined I was going to run for state representative.
So I had to get my name on the ballot for the state representative by doing a write-in vote, and I already had my name on the ballot as county commissioner. So I got elected to the county commission in August and got my name on the ballot for state representative at the same time, and then got elected to be state representative in November of 2002. So, I went ahead and served out those terms. I was chairman of the school board at that time.
So I had two more years on the school board and just so happened In Lewis County, my school board district, ran at odd years from the county commission district. That was the only way I was able to do that. So I got elected to the county commission and state representative and finish my term on the school board for two more years, and serve my four years on the county commission and then didn’t run again. But, I continued to serve. But Lewis county is a small county. The school board meets one time a month and the county commission meets one time a month so it’s not like Dr. Briggs, serving on the Knox County Commission which—
Senator Bailey: Meets a little more frequently.
Senator Hensley: Meets more frequently than just one time a month. So I was able to serve out those terms, but it’s a privilege to be in the legislature and I’ve still been able to practice and I live close enough, about 75 miles from Nashville, so I go home at night and I’m still able to see patients sometimes.
Senator Bailey: And I commend you for that, because that’s—I’m about 90 miles away, and it’s a little tough to try to go home.
Senator Hensley: It is.
Senator Bailey: And both of you understand this, when when you chair a committee, you have a lot more obligations, obviously, you’re trying to meet with the members that have bills as well as the committee members, meeting with lobbyists, constituents in regards to those bills. So many times, as a senator, we don’t make it to the receptions, or I don’t, simply because we’re still working to try to get committee work completed. And so you serve on the Finance Committee, you’re also the chair of the—
Senator Hensley: Revenue Subcommittee, which is the Subcommittee of Finance that hears all of the tax bills. So I chair it, and I serve on the Health Committee and the Education Committee as well.
Senator Bailey: And, well, thank both of you for being here, and we appreciate the fact that you’ve—are going to spend just a little bit of time. And the purpose of today’s podcast is obviously the Coronavirus. And as we all know, the Coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China. And the first infections were linked back to a live animal market that was selling meat in Wuhan, China.
And obviously, the virus has continued to spread all across China, and around the world. And it’s basically spread by person-to-person contact. And so today, one of the things that we want to discuss with both of you as physicians, is what should we do, what should Tennesseans be doing and in regards to the Coronavirus? Dr. Briggs, you want to jump in on that one?
Senator Briggs: Yeah, I guess I’ll jump in on this. And I don’t know a whole lot more, probably, than what a lot of other folks do if they’re reading about it in the paper or hearing about it on the news. There seems to be some good news and some bad news with it. And I’ll go through the bad news first. And that is, it appears to be very contagious. It seems like those that have become the most ill are the elderly or those that have some pre-existing medical conditions, such as, maybe, COPD or heart trouble or diabetes.
It does seem to have symptoms that are similar to the flu. And some of the people with it obviously get very, very ill. And it appears that the mortality from this is higher than the flu. However, and this may be some of the good news, is that we probably aren’t diagnosing all the people that have been infected with the virus, because some people have very mild symptoms. And then some it starts off as a very severe flu-like illness and then just goes downhill.
I think part of the other, I guess you would call it the good news with it, is spread as, as Paul said by person-to-person contact. And then there’s things that we can do. One thing I think we ought to probably think about stopping doing is shaking hands with everybody or getting too close—
Senator Bailey: Yeah, but we can do that as politicians. Everyone—
Senator Hensley: We have to shake hands, that—
Senator Briggs: Everybody wants to shake our hands.
Senator Bailey: Exactly.
Senator Briggs: That may not be a good idea. The part of it is that the virus is what they call an enveloped virus, which means it has an outer coat on it. That also makes it more sensitive to things like alcohol, and Lysol, and some of the sanitizers, is that it is sensitive to being killed by some of those.
Senator Bailey: Okay, so that’s exactly what I wanted you to say. When you say it’s killed—when it’s sensitive. It means that is—
Senator Briggs: It can be killed.
Senator Bailey: —killed by alcohol, okay.
Senator Briggs: Or the hand sanitizers that you rub on your hands?
Senator Bailey: That’s good to know.
Senator Briggs: That’s good to know. And it also appears that if it’s left on a surface someplace, it doesn’t have a real long life. It is fairly sensitive to that. But it can be sanitized, either by using some of the cleaners that are either bleach-based, like some sort of dilute form of Clorox, and there’s some of those that you can buy that are safe to put on your skin, and to put on surfaces you can use these alcohol-based products and then things like Lysol. They have some that are weaker than just the kind of Lysol, maybe, they’d be cleaning the bathroom with, but it is sensitive to all of those. But I think that even though—and by the way, I don’t know if you saw today, Senator Bailey, we had a fourth case diagnosed in Tennessee.
Senator Bailey: No, I did—and where was it located in Tennessee?
Senator Briggs: I believe—it just said Middle Tennessee was the only information that the health department released. I believe that was the fourth case that we have. There’s one in Memphis and three now in Middle Tennessee. But I think it’s important to start the precautions now.
Senator Bailey: I think so, and so Governor Lee has been very proactive, just in my opinion, same as President Trump and the CDC and going ahead and starting to educate the public. And that’s one of the things that we want to do with this podcast, is we want to educate the public, and I think from the CDC, one of their messages is, don’t panic, just be smart, and just be on top of what you’re doing. Wash your hands regularly, use hand sanitizer, keep hand sanitizer with you.
Obviously, if you think that you have flu-like symptoms, stay at home, and then contact your physician and establish an appointment that you can go into where they can see you at that time, especially if you think you have been in contact with someone that has been traveling abroad or maybe have been in an affected area. Dr. Hensley, would you like to chime in, please?
Senator Hensley: Yes, and it certainly, as Dr. Briggs said, it does have a long incubation period, 10 to 14 days, so people can spread the virus even if they’re not sick. So, and many people, 80% of people have a mild case similar to the flu and most of the cases where they have had a fatality has been, as Dr. Briggs said, has been older people, people that have compromised immune systems, they have COPD, they have diabetes, they have heart disease, they’re in a nursing home and many of the deaths were people that were in the nursing home where they obviously had other medical problems. Because most people getting this are not going to die from it. Most of them don’t even have to be treated. They just stay at home and just treat it like a flu with symptomatic treatment and they’re going to get over it. So—
Senator Bailey: Which brings me to a question. Is the Coronavirus, I believe it’s Coronavirus-19. COVOID-19. So is it responding to antibiotics?
Senator Hensley: No, it’s a virus and viruses don’t respond to antibiotics and that’s why most of the flu cases even just regular flu, that there is some antiviral medicine for the flu. But—
Senator Bailey: Now, Dr. Hensley, help me because, obviously I’m not a doctor, so when you say antiviral,
Senator Hensley: Antiviral.
Senator Bailey: So what is an antiviral medication?
Senator Hensley: Antiviral medication is like Tamiflu, that’s one most people may have heard of, that treats the flu, and that’s like an antibiotic. Antibiotics are for treating bacteria. Antiviral medicines are for treating viruses.
But even the flu medicine really just shortens the course of the flu, it really doesn’t kill the virus per se, but it does help shorten the course and kill some of the virus, but people still generally have flu symptoms for a few days. But the sooner they get started treating with antiviral, it generally shortens the course until they get better quicker. But there’s really not a antiviral medicine that I know of, for this virus, and people do get over it without any special treatment.
It’s just if they develop complications, they get respiratory symptoms, they get pneumonia or they get something else with the virus that’s generally where the people die from the virus.
Senator Bailey: So Dr. Briggs, can you tell me if there’s a lot of differences between normal flu and the Coronavirus?
Senator Briggs: It sounds like the initial symptoms in the more severe cases, because anyone that’s had the flu knows, you get pretty sick with it, you have a fever, you have the aches and pains, you may have a cough and you just generally feel pretty awful. And I think in the more severe cases of the Coronavirus infections, those are the sort of symptoms that you would have, very flu-like. And just as Dr. Hensley mentioned, there’s a lot of people who will get the Coronavirus and the symptoms are extremely mild, or maybe they don’t have any symptoms at all, but yet they can still be carriers. And that’s what part of the difficulty is, is identifying those people that could spread it so we can isolate them, and not spread it to someone else.
Senator Bailey: Okay, so that brings in a question that I have because what I have heard is that the incubation period is about 14 days for the Coronavirus. What is the incubation period for the normal flu? Can either of you speak to that? I’m sure that I know there’s different strains of the flu, so is there a standard, like it’s a 3-day, 4-day, 7-day, and is this was what makes the Coronavirus so unique in the fact that it’s a 14-day incubation period?
Senator Hensley: It does make it unique because the flu is typically—somebody has to have symptoms are within a day or two, certainly not 14 days. So usually if people don’t have symptoms, then they’re not contagious with the flu.
Senator Bailey: So is it true that if you—I’ve always been told, look, if you have a fever and you’ve got flu-like symptoms, don’t be around other people, stay out of work, stay out of school. But in this case, with a Coronavirus, you may actually have the virus, be the carrier is Dr. Briggs said, not know it, and you could be in contact with other people, and you could—
Senator Hensley: Spread it, yeah.
Senator Bailey: —and you could be spreading that germ. Now, I’m assuming that after the 14-day incubation period, then you could always ultimately come down with those symptoms, but you could have affected many family members, co-workers, people in school, public places. Is that—am I reading that correctly?
Senator Briggs: I think so, but there’s some people who may be infected with it, that really don’t have very many symptoms.
Senator Bailey: Okay, so you’re saying that you could be a carrier of the Coronavirus, but you never, you never come down with the symptoms of the Coronavirus.
Senator Briggs: Or the symptoms could be very, very mild, where you really don’t give them much thought.
Senator Bailey: Okay, well, now that’s something new that I haven’t heard, I assumed that there was an incubation period of 14 days, then you would come down and you would actually experience the symptoms, but the two of you are basically agreeing that you could actually be the carrier, you could have mild symptoms, just cold-like symptoms, nothing like the flu symptoms, and actually have the virus then. Is that right?
Senator Briggs: That’s correct.
Senator Hensley: That’s correct. And so, that’s why this is different than the flu and the long incubation period. And certainly, everybody that is exposed wouldn’t have 14 days, but I think that’s just the longest it could be. And a lot of people, probably even shorter than that.
Senator Bailey: Oh, wow. Dr. Briggs, did you have something to add?
Senator Briggs: Well, I tell you what I was going to add to this because I think a question that many of the listeners may have is, what is the Tennessee government doing about this?
Senator Bailey: Right, yes.
Senator Briggs: And something very important is that Governor Lee, and I was very glad to see him do this, appointed to task force, a Coronavirus Task Force, and he’s appointed members to that task force, and I have to say they were a very qualified group of people to look at this. There’s public health officials from some of the counties, we have infectious disease specialists from Vanderbilt. We have epidemiologists from Vanderbilt and the CDC who were put on this.
So it is a task force for those of us in Tennessee, that when I looked at that, it gave me a lot of comfort to know that we have some of the best and most experienced people in the state that’s monitoring this and will give us advice that we may need as we’re going through the whole progress of this epidemic.
Senator Hensley: And hopefully we can get rapid test for this, because the flu test, most people know there’s a rapid flu test where you can tell within 10 minutes or so whether someone has the flu, and I think these tests now have to be sent to the CDC or sent somewhere to tell whether somebody is positive, it certainly takes several hours. So if we could get a test that was more rapid that would help.
Senator Bailey: And another question that I have is if you had the flu shot this year, would it have helped with Coronavirus?
Senator Hensley: No, because it’s just for certain flu virus and it doesn’t even always help against all the flu viruses, but it certainly wouldn’t help against this virus.
Senator Bailey: You know, Tennessee and especially the federal government has been criticized in regards to what the response has been to the Coronavirus. But in my opinion, I really feel like that both the federal government and, Dr. Briggs, as you mentioned, Tennessee, we’ve jumped out, and we’re being proactive about the Coronavirus and trying to educate the citizens, especially the federal government. \
But at the same time, there’s been some to criticize. But when you look around the world, and as of today, there’s over 110,000 reported cases worldwide, but the United States only has 550 of those cases. So, in my opinion, I think that we have really tried to be ahead of this and tried to be proactive in letting the citizens know what they need to do in regards to the Coronavirus. Do you generally—
Senator Hensley: I agree with that, totally. And I think the federal government and the state government is trying to educate people because that is the main thing; educating people. And people in this country are smart enough to know what to do if they’re told what to do. And I think people are starting to understand, stay out of crowds, make sure they wash their hands, make sure that they don’t expose other people if they don’t have to, if they have symptoms, stay home. So I think over the next few weeks, we’re going to see this die down if people do that.
Senator Briggs: The other thing I think is valuable, because it’s not progressed as far in the United States as it has in some of the other countries, and it gives us to look at what best practices have been in places like China, Korea, Italy, where they’ve had major outbreaks, and we can learn what works and doesn’t work. Some of the measures had been very draconian in both Wuhan, China, and in northern Italy, they just literally put an entire quarantine over the northern part of the country.
Senator Bailey: I saw that just as we came in, that Italy is basically totally quarantined their entire country, now.
Senator Briggs: Yeah, they’ve stopped, I think they’ve stopped movement from one part of the country to the other to try to contain it. Another fact that is, is the longer we can put off us having a major problem here, they are also—by they, I mean the federal government—is also working on developing a vaccine for this.
And that’s not going to come quick. It may very well take a year, for this to happen, because you have to come up with a vaccine, and the vaccine has to be tested both for its efficacy—in other words, how well it works, how much protection it gives an individual— and also whether there’s any—
Senator Hensley: If it has any side effects.
Senator Briggs: —side effects from it, is there any problems with it. And that can take a year to a year and a half, and that is really working rapidly to try to do that. But if we can hold off a major epidemic in the United States, maybe with summer coming we don’t have people—
Senator Bailey: Well, that was one of my next questions that I was basically going to ask Dr. Hensley, and that is, do you think with the fact that we’re entering spring and then summer, that the virus will be, for a better word, slowed down, or will it be stopped, in regards to spring and summer? Or do you think because of the warm weather that it could increase? So what do you think about that, Dr. Hensley?
Senator Hensley: Well, typically flu gets better in the warm months, people are not cooped up inside together all the time, school is out during the summer so kids are not exposed to a whole classroom every day like they are during school. So I think when summer comes, spring and summer, it will get better just because of weather conditions, people being outside, not exposed to people as much, not being cooped up in buildings.
Senator Bailey: Wow. Again, just getting back to some statistics, and today being March 9, for those that are listening to the podcast, obviously, when it actually airs, there could be some changes to these numbers. But again, we go back and we talk about worldwide—now this is worldwide numbers 3,900 people have died around the world. But yet the United States has seen 22 deaths.
And obviously, one death is one too many. But again, when you look at how our population is free to move about the world and be able to go anywhere that they want, and then obviously there’s so many countries and populations that come and move throughout the United States. When you think about 3,900 worldwide deaths, but you see that the United States is, as of March 9th, only has 22 deaths, that’s still a relative—very small number, and obviously, Dr. Briggs, you mentioned earlier that there were four cases now confirmed in Tennessee.
And those cases are in—there’s one case in Williamson County, there’s one case in Shelby County, but there’s two cases now reported in Davidson County as of March the 9th. So well, gentlemen, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on the Backroads and Backstories with me today, and your vast knowledge of—your number of years of experience of being physicians, and being a doctor, a family doctor and caring for individuals, we appreciate you and we appreciate your knowledge. Do either of you have anything before we close out today’s show?
Senator Hensley: It’s been a pleasure being here, and with you, and I certainly appreciate your friendship and your leadership in the General Assembly. You are a very well respected chairman of the Commerce Committee, and we just appreciate you having us on here, and we just like to encourage people out there to just stay wary of the situation and we will get over this.
Senator Bailey: Thank you. Dr. Briggs.
Senator Briggs: I’d like to thank you also for your friendship, and I’ll tell you, Senator Bailey is a pretty modest guy. He didn’t mention that, in addition to being a chairman, now, of the Commerce Committee, he’s a former chairman of the Transportation Committee, and the governor has placed him on one of the Healthcare Task Force, looking to some of the long term healthcare solutions that we need in the state.
So, we’re very proud of what you’ve done, and the good job you’ve done, and I think part of the reason that you’ve been put on some of these committees is because of your effectiveness as a leader, and I think all of us in Tennessee should appreciate that.
Senator Bailey: Well, thank you both. I’m assuming you have bills up in Commerce over the next couple of weeks, and—
Senator Hensley: [laughing], We do, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Briggs: That’s right, your honor, Your Highness, or whatever.
Senator Bailey: Ladies and gentlemen, we certainly appreciate Dr. Briggs and Dr. Hensley being with us today, and we appreciate you listening to Backroads and Backstories. This is Paul Bailey. And until next time, stay blessed.
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