UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson has been through a health crisis before. When he was entering the medical field in the late 80’s, the country was awakening to the HIV epidemic. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic is moving more rapidly and affecting many more people in Arkansas and across the globe.
With the state recording its highest one-day number of COVID-19 cases – 1,061 on Saturday – Patterson said it’s time for a statewide mask mandate.
“Statewide mandatory masking,” he tweeted on Saturday afternoon (July 11) when the numbers were released. “Too many cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas. This can’t continue.”
During Patterson’s interview on the Sunday (July 12) edition of Talk Business & Politics, he was asked why masking has become so heavily politicized during this pandemic.
“The answer to that question is, I don’t know. Never in my life has a medical issue been so highly politicized,” he said.
“I trained during the beginning phases of the HIV epidemic. And granted there was some politicization of that. But that didn’t get in the way of establishing what best practices were. And to be frank, you know, you didn’t have to be a Democrat or Republican to choose to wear a condom in those days. And why we have turned this into such a messy situation, where the facts and the science are being obscured is something that we will study for decades,” Patterson said.
UAMS has projected COVID-19 cases in Arkansas could reach 150,000 in late October, with hospitalizations ranging between 2,794 and 4,650, according to UAMS’s updated modeling.
Patterson said that the School of Public Health is preparing to update those models every two weeks to give policymakers an idea of what current conditions may lead to.
“We’re getting in the rhythm of updating our projections every two weeks. The results of our projections will come out on Tuesday every other week, and we plan on doing a video that provides a lay explanation of the updated results so that people can understand and not get bogged down by the scientific jargon,” he said.
“We want to be transparent with our results, but we also want to emphasize that these are projections. They’re like hurricane forecasts. When the forecast all starts lining up on your city, you’ve got to be concerned, but there is always going to be differences in terms of how big is the wave? And exactly at what point will it crest? But, you don’t want to be underneath the wave of this cresting on your town,” he added.
Patterson also was critical of the lack of federal response to expanded testing, a factor he believes is key to eventually getting ahead of the virus.
“The failure with testing is a failure of having an inadequate federal response. And, you know, until we’ve got a nationwide testing algorithm in place with support for the pipeline, the reagents that are necessary to get the testing done, we’re just always going to be behind. Individual states can’t do that, he said. “Unfortunately, we had a failure at the federal level of getting adequate testing and adequate PPE [personal protective equipment], and an adequate message about personal safety.”
You can watch Patterson’s full interview in the video below.