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Follow science and use caution in re-opening after COVID-19 shut down, doctor advises



Dr. Justin Turner
Dr. Justin Turner (Photo courtesy Dr. Turner)

Vicksburg native Dr. Justin Turner, a member of the Mississippi coronavirus medical task force, advises that we should trust the science during this crisis and use an abundance of caution when re-opening the state to commerce.

“As a result of flattening the curve, right now we are good from a medical supply standpoint as far as beds and ventilators,” Turner said Wednesday. “Now is the time to see where we are with data.”

Citing the need for better data and contact tracing to run down the origins of the illness, Turner added that opening back up too quickly would be a mistake.

“It could be very premature, and we are asking for unnecessary loss of lives if we open things up too soon,” he said.

Turner is a 1999 graduate of Warren Central High School. He attended Jackson State University and studied medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. Turner is president and CEO of Turner Care and practices medicine in South Jackson.

He expressed disappointment over recent test results for drugs that held promise for treatment of the virus.

“Some medicines, such as hydroxychloroquine, that we thought were going to be good are not having the results that we were told they would have originally,” he said.

One of the key factors in the virus data is the disproportionate amount of cases and deaths among African Americans, which is a problem across the country, not just in Mississippi. Underlying conditions that weaken the immune system make the virus more deadly for everyone, but African Americans are more likely to suffer from many of these conditions such as diabetes. Nationally, the rate of diabetes among African Americans is 11.7% and 7.5% for whites.

Turner said African Americans also face systemic and socioeconomic issues including a lack of access to health care, and they make COVID-19 much more deadly in the African American community. Not having insurance or being under insured causes patients to avoid getting adequate medical care or other needed services such as nutritional advice.

Many African Americans also have a lack of trust for the medical community, Turner said, and he cited the Tuskegee syphilis study as one reason. In that study, which ran from 1932 until 1972, researchers left hundreds of African American men untreated for syphilis so they could follow the progression of the disease. An investigation revealed that the men did not give their consent for the study, and that researchers lied to them about the “treatments” they received even after penicillin became available in 1945. Of the original 399 participants, 74 were still in the study after 40 years, and they won a $10 million lawsuit.

Citing diet and obesity, which contribute to conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, Turner said unhealthy eating is a huge problem in the state. He counsels his patients to choose what they eat wisely, challenging them to minimize red meat such as pork and beef, avoid processed foods and to cut back on other unhealthy choices.

“Seventy percent of your immune system is in your digestive system,” he said.

“Humans are the only species that drink milk from another mammal,” he added, and said soy or almond milk are preferable.

Turner also encourages people to exercise, saying not to use gym closure as an excuse not to exercise. Mental health is also important, and he advised taking breaks from social media and the news.

The steps being taken in Mississippi to fight COVID-19 are appropriate, Turner indicated.

“If we are over-reactive, we may never know,” he said, “but if we are under-reactive, we will find out soon.”

For more information on Dr. Turner, visit the Turner Care website.

To hear the complete interview, click here.

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