Respecting the Virus: Dr. Napoli Answers Key Questions
How and why to respect the coronavirus
A conversation with BCBSAZ Chief Medical Officer James Napoli, M.D.
The virus that causes COVID-19 hardly seems like something that deserves our respect. After all, it is the reason for a pandemic that has already caused more than sixteen million people to fall ill and led to a half-million deaths—including more than 3,300 in Arizona.* Why would health experts suggest we respect it?
We talked to Dr. James Napoli, chief medical officer at Blue Cross® Blue Shield® of Arizona (BCBSAZ) to find out more.
Q: You and other leaders have talked about how important it is to “respect the virus.” What exactly do you mean by that?
Dr. Napoli: Basically, it’s a way of reminding people that COVID-19 can be very dangerous and we need to take every precaution to protect ourselves and others from it. The coronavirus is a major health concern that should be taken seriously. Respecting it can actually give us more control over it.
Q: How does wearing masks and engaging in social distancing relate to the idea of respecting the virus?
Dr. Napoli: Following these simple safety precautions is a way to keep more people safe. When I wear a mask and stay a safe distance away from another person in public, I’m taking an action that protects both of us. There’s another important point to make here too: Even people who wouldn’t likely experience serious complications from a COVID-19 infection need to follow these basic guidelines so they can avoid passing the virus onto more vulnerable members of the community. I can think of no better way to show respect than for each of us to do our part to stop the spread of a potentially deadly illness.
Q: Arizona’s number of positive reported COVID-19 cases began to spike in early June and the rate of new cases continues to rise daily. How are those changing statistics connected to this topic?
Dr. Napoli: Arizonans did a great job adapting quickly to the stay-at-home order that began on March 31. Also, BCBSAZ was one of many organizations around the state that distributed helpful information so that people could get up to speed on what they needed to know about the virus and how to stay safe. Together, those efforts helped us flatten the curve of Arizona’s first wave of confirmed cases.
Then, as we were allowed to gradually reopen starting in early May, it’s possible people believed that COVID-19 was no longer a threat, or at least thought it was much less of one. Chances are, not enough people continued following those basic rules of safety—like wearing masks, socially distancing in public, and washing hands and surfaces regularly—and that probably led to the higher numbers of cases that started to appear in June.
Q: What would you ask every Arizonan to do to help bring down our state’s case count?
Dr. Napoli: We can all do a few different things to protect ourselves and other Arizonans: wear a mask when you’re out in public, stay six feet away from people when you leave your home, wash your hands and high-touch surfaces frequently, avoid crowds, and remember that we still don’t have a vaccine for this virus. Until we do, we all have a responsibility not just to protect ourselves, but also to protect our fellow Arizonans.
Q: What is BCBSAZ doing to protect the health and safety of Arizonans during the pandemic?
Dr. Napoli: Great question. Since the earliest days of this crisis, we’ve been hard at work making sure our members get the care they need, the information they need, and the support they need. There’s a dedicated section of our website where we’ve posted all the information people might want—and it’s all available to the public, including people who aren’t BCBSAZ members. There are overviews of coverage updates and instructions on how to use telemedicine. There’s also a whole library of articles about how to navigate the everyday realities and cope with the challenges of life in the era of COVID-19.
This pandemic has been tough on everyone and has required people all over the world to make a lot of changes, but it hasn’t changed our mission here at BCBSAZ. Taking care of our members still is and always will be our top priority.
*Sources: The World Health Organization and the Arizona Department of Health