An Interview with Dr. Anna Staudt

Writer+-+Elizabeth+Zerby

Elizabeth Zerby

Elizabeth Zerby, Contributor

“People who believe this virus is a hoax are not on the frontlines—this is killing people and making others very sick.” Dr. Staudt writes as she begs people to take COVID-19 seriously. I had an interview assignment given to me for my “Intro to Radio” class right before school got canceled. It was supposed to be in the studio, but since we are home now, I had the opportunity to talk to my cousin Dr. Anna Staudt, who lives about an hour away. Since she is a pharmacist, our chat focused on the pandemic that’s taking our world by storm. She answered some frequently asked questions and shared her views on this new and deadly virus.

Dr. Staudt is indeed a pharmacist, but not the kind most people probably think of when they hear that title. She explained, “I work in a clinic. As a pharmacist in the clinic setting, I work with patients more on specific health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol to help educate them about their conditions and medications, adjust their medications, and meet health goals. Essentially, it is like a very focused Dr.’s office visit for those specific conditions where we can make medication changes. My clinic sees a variety of patients, but we have special resources and funding to really benefit people who are underserved, such as people who are immigrants, unemployed, uninsured, underinsured, or otherwise low-income.”

The first thing I asked Dr. Staudt was how she and the clinic were being personally affected by this global crisis. She says things are very different due to COVID-19. Many patients are simply just not showing up for their appointments, even though they are not considered “high-risk” for complications. However, many of their patients are being proactively switched to video or phone appointments. This is much more difficult for many reasons including language barriers, not being able to check patient blood pressure, and the clinic overall just not bringing in the same income. Dr. Staudt shares how they are working to help with the change in profit. “Many of the physicians and nurse practitioners are taking one day off a week to help relieve the financial strain on the company, myself included. I will be taking one day a week off for the next 2 months.” 

Since Dr. Staudt works in a clinic, I was sure she had encountered a patient who tested positive. However, it appears that is not the case. She has had some patients that have shown possible symptoms, but they did not meet requirements for testing, so she will never know if they actually had the virus. She added, “However, my colleagues have been dealing directly with patients with COVID-19 that they have been testing.” Everyone working at the clinic gets their temperatures checked every morning and are required to wear surgical masks the entire time they are working. When dealing directly with the patients that do come in, they are required to wear an even heavier duty mask. This is called an N95. If a patient is suspected to have COVID-19 they begin with asking questions, such as what symptoms they are exhibiting, and if they have had contact with anyone who was known to have the virus. If the questions line-up with the qualifications that are needed for testing, they are asked to stay in their car until a nurse or physician goes outside and swabs them. Dr. Staudt makes it very clear that guidelines are being switched often and need to be properly followed. “However, these guidelines are changing frequently with the different instructions on which labs can process test swabs, etc. and we are making sure to follow the official government orders for testing.”

I recently had noticed that the federal government is now allowing pharmacists to administer tests. I was curious if this would affect her, as she isn’t a typical pharmacist. The answer as of right now is no. She says that this has a much larger impact on retail pharmacists as they are the most accessible healthcare providers in our country. Retail pharmacies being able to provide testing could make testing much more accessible to the public. Anna said, “There is a lot of controversy among pharmacists, though, in starting to test for COVID-19. Many do not want to provide testing for various reasons (e.g. they are too busy with other tasks, lack of training, exposure, etc.), but may be forced to do so.” 

Since there is so much unknown about this virus, I asked Dr. Staudt what she would tell someone who thinks they could be infected or is scared they will be. She wrote that the best way to fight fear is with educating yourself and being mindful and cautious. She says, “When looking for information and news on the virus, it is important to find credible sources as well rather than getting false information.” Taking extra steps such as wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, and staying home as much as possible are all great ways to stay ahead of COVID-19. If you think you could be infected, the best thing you can do is stay at home. Only go to the hospital if you are having unmanageable symptoms. One of the biggest reasons Governor Dewine is having us stay home is to prevent the spread, so we don’t overwhelm the healthcare system. Basically… MAKE SMART DECISIONS. 

Lots of people have been blaming millennials and Gen-Z groups for the major spread of COVID-19, so I wanted to get Anna’s take on it. She doesn’t believe any specific group of people are at fault; however, there are people from every generation not taking this seriously. The most important thing we can do is follow the order to stay at home the absolute best we can. Just because you may not get a hard dose of this virus, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. Everyone has different health issues, ages, and different factors that go into how COVID-19 will affect them. Dr. Staudt urges people to follow directions, “No age group is protected from catching COVID-19 and it easily spreads, so even younger people who are healthy could pass it on to someone else who might have severe complications or potentially die from this virus. It’s important that everyone should care for one another, and I believe following the governor’s orders in staying home when possible and only going out for essential reasons will help in protecting others.”

It is easy to recognize that some people are completely overreacting and buying all the toilet paper. While others are not taking any of this seriously and are disregarding all of the government’s guidelines. I wanted to know how to find a balance between the two. Dr. Staudt cautioned, “It is important to find a middle ground because either extreme is completely unnecessary. Staying calm, cautious, and prepared is best and safest for everyone. Overreacting can cause unnecessary anxiety and consequences for others—there are people fighting and stealing toilet paper from elders at grocery stores. Likewise, disregarding government guidelines can cause unwanted consequences for others as well in potentially spreading the virus.” Although we cannot see this virus, it is always lurking. People are spreading false information because they aren’t reading from credible sources. If people could just fact-check their sources this could save many lives. Healthcare professionals are terrified to go near their family, in fear of accidentally passing on this deadly virus. People are dying alone in lonely hospital rooms with no family for comfort. It is understandable to feel like the government is trying to force control, but there isn’t another choice. It has become very evident that if they didn’t, people would still be meeting in large groups with absolutely no thought about how their actions could affect someone else. In order to protect the lives of millions of people, this needs to be done. Dr. Staudt reminded me, “A lot of people and businesses are suffering because of the virus, but ignoring government guidelines and being careless can prolong the issue and hit the economy even harder if we were to open up things too soon and cause a spike in COVID-19 cases. It is insulting to healthcare workers to think this is a hoax or to go against guidelines—we are all suffering in one way or another and working together and cautiously will help us beat this sooner.” Anna wants people to understand the long-term effects of not following guidelines and how fighting them could just make the issue last much longer. 

My final question I had for Dr. Staudt was as someone in the medical field during this pandemic, what is her honest opinion about this new virus. I wanted to know if she was as concerned as the majority of people. She says when the virus first reached America, she wasn’t concerned because she didn’t know enough about it. COVID-19 is fast spreading and easily transmitted, which makes it incredibly hard to fight against. “My opinion is that it is to be taken seriously but without panic.” She then began explaining, “Even those who are young and healthy because they could pass it to others that are older or those who have pre-existing health conditions where they could get very sick if acquiring COVID-19. I think the right approach is to be calmly cautious and responsible for your own health and the health of others by staying home if you can and using the proper precautions if you can’t.” When you complain about staying in, wearing a mask, and washing your hands a little extra, just remember all the healthcare workers trying to keep YOU safe. They are trying so hard to not get sick or exposed. “If we were to catch it, then who would be left to provide healthcare?” 

I understand that this pandemic is scary, frustrating, and overall sad. However, try to keep in mind the healthcare workers on the frontlines, who are working incredibly hard to keep you safe during this time. You may not agree with all the guidelines that we as citizens are being asked to follow, but that doesn’t give you a reason to disrespect authority.  You could be unknowingly carrying the virus and passing it to most of the people you interact with. Not following these directions could overrun hospitals and facilities with lots of very sick people. If this were to happen some very tough decisions may have to be made. It might not be about you, but imagine if it was your grandparents. Please be safe.