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As counties weigh mandatory face coverings, St. Lucie County doctor says masks are critical

Dr. Moti Ramgopal says he's concerned with increase in hospitalizations
Posted at 11:08 AM, Jun 18, 2020

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Discussions but no decisions yet about whether you'll be required to wear masks in public in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

At the start of June, Dr. Moti Ramgopal and his colleagues at Midway Specialty Care in St. Lucie County had fewer than 20 COVID-19 patients.

Now, it’s close to 50.

"We were expecting a decrease in numbers, not the sudden increase that we’ve seen in the last two weeks," said Dr. Ramgopal.

Dr. Ramgopal, who gets tested regularly for the coronavirus, said added testing does lead to more cases, but the increase in hospitalizations is concerning with those patients staying longer.

"Whereas flu, you get better in three to five days. We’re seeing seven, 14, and 21 days and they’re struggling to improve," said Dr. Ramgopal.

One of the things Dr. Ramgopal stresses is that people should continue to wear face coverings. But that has become controversial and is being talked about at all government levels.

This week, both Palm Beach and Martin County leaders deferred decisions on masks.

In Martin County, one proposal that was defeated would have required businesses that did not want to make their customers wear masks post a sign outside of their business.

"We still don’t have a vaccine. We still don’t have pills that will stop this like the flu," said Dr. Ramgopal.

Dr. Ramgopal sees COVID-19 staying with us for a long time.

Because of that, he’s setting up his own laboratory to give his patients test results the same day.

"So we expect to run 200 to 300 tests per day," said Dr. Ramgopal.

After initial encouragement that the state was flattening the curve, Dr. Ramgopal senses the fatigue of the public and from providers and said it’s important to stay vigilant.

"We are still very early in this epidemic story. The light is at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a long tunnel," said Dr. Ramgopal.

A petition has been started asking St. Lucie County to mandate masks.