Mobile County Health Department epidemiologist Dr. Rendi Murphree on COVID-19: ‘We’re going to be in this for a long time — for years’
As the public is hoping for the best with the COVID-19 pandemic, getting back to a completely “all-clear” scenario may take some time, according to Dr. Rendi Murphree, an epidemiologist with the Mobile County Health Department.
Murphree’s agency and her counterparts at the Jefferson County Health Department act somewhat independently from the Alabama State Health Department, given they have their own health offices that can issue directives ahead of the state’s agency.
During a wide-ranging interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “Midday Mobile,” Murphree discussed accounting for COVID-related deaths and her prognosis for the pandemic going forward.
Host Sean Sullivan asked Murphree about the determination of a COVID death, including if the cause of death could have been caused by something unrelated to COVID-19 yet is still counted as a COVID-related death.
“Sometimes it does,” she replied. “It depends on what is on the death certificate and what the attending physician posed it as. These physicians are made by attending physicians who know the circumstances of that death. So, yes — sometimes even something like a car accident or a heart attack might be classified as COVID-positive because right now we’re trying to gather as much information as we can about what causes death in people that are COVID-positive because again, our assumption is that it is an acute respiratory distress syndrome. But if we only code COVID deaths based on that narrow definition, then we can’t learn about deaths, maybe from cardiac disease, that were related to the COVID infection, but the science had not recognized that link yet.”
Murphree acknowledged the system was not perfect but said classifying deaths that were perhaps caused by other events while the victim was COVID-positive was the only way to give an accurate comparison among all of the states in the United States.
She went on to say that she anticipated coronavirus being around for some time to come in the future.
“I think we’re going to be in this for a long time — for years,” she said. “Then I hope that we can put it behind us, put SARS-CoV-2 in the bucket with all those other coronaviruses, all those influenzas that we start to see every year. That’s what I think will happen, but it is going to take some time to get where we can put it behind us because this is a highly infectious virus. It has severe complications and deaths in vulnerable groups, and almost no one is immune.”
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.