Rice-and-Beans-Doctors Dr. Vázquez, left, and Dr. Medina educate the Hispanic communities through their Facebook page, Rice and Beans Doctors.
Image courtesy of the Rice and Beans Doctors

Rice and Beans Doctors, two physicians who have witnessed the impact of COVID-19 firsthand, know how decisions made by public officials affect the population’s health.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Puerto Rican doctors Yared Vázquez and Nelson Medina have been on the frontlines treating patients and providing information to Latino communities. 

The physicians disseminate information through their Facebook page, Rice and Beans Doctors, where they explain health issues in simple, everyday terms. During the past few months, they have concentrated their efforts on informing their followers about the coronavirus.

Based on his expertise, Dr. Vázquez said the next 48 hours will be decisive for President Donald Trump’s health. The chief executive revealed in a Twitter message just before 1 a.m., Friday, that he and his wife, Melania, tested positive for COVID-19.

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The White House confirmed on Friday the president has mild symptoms of the novel virus. According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines (CDC), the Trumps must remain in quarantine for 10 to 14 days, until their molecular test results are negative.

The president has become infected with the virus at a critical stage in his campaign, at less than 32 days until Election Day. Political analysts, critical of the president’s attitude toward the pandemic, have commented on how the infection might affect his campaigning options.

“In the next 48 hours, we are going to know how difficult the next weeks are going to be for Trump, and we’ll see what kind of decisions he makes,” Dr. Vázquez told The Americano. “If he has mild symptoms and feels capable of making presentations, who knows what might happen.” 

On Friday, the White House confirmed a Trump rally in Sanford, Florida, had been canceled. So far, no further cancellations on the president’s agenda have been reported.

“If he decides to [continue campaigning], he might be making the most catastrophic decision regarding the health of the nation,” Dr. Vázquez, whose specialty is internal medicine, said. “Seeing the leader of the country continue with his activities regardless of having the coronavirus would lead to a wave of bad decisions.” 

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Trump, 74, is within the most vulnerable group of COVID-19 patients. Melania is 50.

“Because of his age and morbid obesity, and because he may suffer from other health conditions, Trump has great potential for complications,” the doctor said. “His wife Melania is middle-aged and slim. It’s difficult to predict, but you have to pay more attention to the president.” 

Vázquez added that the most responsible thing all political candidates can do at this point is to virtually hold campaign events—̦including debates. He also advises people to vote by mail or vote early rather than going in person.

The Rice and Beans Doctors have witnessed what bad political decisions can do to the population. Dr. Medina, who specializes in pulmonology and critical care, has been working for 14 consecutive days in the ICU of AdventHealth Celebration hospital in Kissimmee. 

“In Florida the virus was very politicized,” Dr. Vázquez said. “The consequences of the virus were tied to keeping the economy afloat. The hardest moments were from April to May, and [Florida Gov.] Ron De Santis’ decisions were very hard, especially on our community.” 

The doctor said they began having conversations with colleagues and the CDC about the pandemic’s development, in December .

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Since then, they understood the impact the virus could have on Latino communities, who they say are culturally inclined to hugging, kissing, and visiting one another.

“The impact also has a lot to do with standard of living,” Dr. Vázquez explained. “Many Latinos do not have health insurance. There are many who waited to go to the doctor when they were very ill—either they didn’t have health insurance or were afraid of catching the virus at the hospital.”

The internist said he is concerned with the flu season beginning. His social media colleague Dr. Medina has already treated patients with simultaneous COVID-19 and influenza. Vázquez urges all people, from children to the elderly, to get the flu shot because the next five months might be challenging.

The doctor, nonetheless, said he is hopeful Latino communities may have finally realized the precautions one must take during these times.

“Despite the fact DeSantis wants to open restaurants at full capacity—something we as doctors oppose—I notice people are still quite locked in, and that gives me some relief,” the doctor said.