Published on August 17, 2020
Can People With CLL Go Back to Regular Life Before the COVID-19 Pandemic is Over?
"There is risk/benefit to every single decision we make in our lives" explains Dr. Anthony Mato from Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, NYC, who joins Patient Power Co-founder, Andrew Schorr to discuss how people living with CLL can best make those decisions during COVID-19. CLL patients want to know if they are taking risks if they return to work, if children return to school and how best to protect themselves if safety restrictions are lifted. Watch to hear Dr. Mato's suggestions on how to make the best decisions for your situation.
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Transcript | CLL and COVID-19: Do I Need to Stay Quarantined?
COVID-19 Precautions for CLL Patients
Dr. Mato, what would you say to the CLL patient community about tempering what we hear anecdotally versus what you're trying to do with your colleagues worldwide to continue to get updated hard data for all of us to make decisions?
More than any other example, like I think of in the recent past, the CLL community has come together to have consensus on recommendations. And so I would say that if you are working with a CLL specialist, rely heavily on their thoughts before you use other resources or other sources of information to make important decisions. The American Society of Hematology, some of the European Hematology Association, and others have put together guidance for how to manage CLL and COVID-19, those are updated continuously. In fact, I saw a recent update in my inbox to approve, I'm part of that committee for ASH. So look to the CLL experts who are providing as much knowledge as they have at a particular moment on how to deal with this pandemic.
Okay. Now, everybody wants to know if we are at higher risk, what are you telling your patients? You, as I said, had been through it in New York, not everybody, but most everybody in New York is wearing a mask, people are really cautious, and your rates have come way down. And I think you were telling me before we started the program that the number of CLL patients that you have with COVID has gone way down.
Yeah. I haven't diagnosed anybody with COVID in a long time, at least six to eight weeks, despite the fact that we continue to continually test patients if they have any minor respiratory symptoms. I use common sense with my patients, I think the best guidance is to wear a mask, to follow appropriate hand-washing and social distancing. That's a bare minimum. The hard questions are the ones that you probably have there from individuals about whether they should go back to work, whether they should send their children to school, whether they should shop or have someone do shopping for them. I think those are all very individual questions, and it's hard to give an answer for the group in mass because there's risk benefit to every single decision we make in our lives.
And if somebody lives alone and doesn't have any available family or friends to help them, certainly there is guidance we give for how to safely shop or how to do the things that need to be done. So every patient that calls with a question like that, we think about them as an individual, keeping in mind the guidance we have from the CDC and help them to try to make that choice. Certainly, if somebody has a fear of going back to work or they have a particular concern about their work environment, we're very supportive and providing them with documentation at least through the period where we have great therapies or vaccines available.
So for me, every time we get a call, I have to think about that person and then put it in the context of the data that we have available. Sorry, I won't be able to tell everybody what to do, I wish I had great answers that were just generalized, but they're really not.
So we have someone who's a teacher, now, there have been all kinds of discussions around the country and maybe around the world about whether there will be in-person teaching. And it's not just worried about the kids, it's worried about the teachers, and we have people with CLL who are teachers, and they're saying, "Can I go?"
Same answer, it's risk benefits. Certainly, if a teacher expresses to me a concern particularly if they're with younger children, and who can expect a five-year-old to wear a mask or practice social distancing, it's hard, we support their decision to stay home.
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