Dr. Anitha Srinivasan is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Director of Perioperative Services at Metropolitan Hospital...and a FHIXer! Below, she answers some questions about NYC one year into the pandemic, busts some common COVID-19 myths, and of course, shares why Fhitting Room LIVE! is part of her routine.
How did you first find out about Fhitting Room?
I was introduced by a colleague when Fhitting Room had a studio on 80th and Lexington—maybe 5 years ago? I loved the energy and people, made new friends and it became part of my routine. I felt totally rewired and energized after barely surviving the first few sessions.
We're almost 1-year out since the pandemic hit. How has NYC life changed for you in the past year?
As part of executive leadership and a surgeon in a busy city hospital, COVID hit hard. I endured long hours and poor outcomes in patients and, especially in the Spring of 2020, a sense of helplessness in fighting an unknown disease. The personal losses with COVID and secondary effects of a completely altered lifestyle made 2020 a very hard year for me. This has made me appreciate everything I have much more than I did before and all the more thankful for my health.
There is so much information about COVID-19 out there. What resources would you recommend to keep people informed?
Try your best to get information from reliable, science-based sources such as the CDC, WHO, NIH, NYS Department of Health, and NYC.gov. Information is updated regularly and you don’t have to be a scientist or doctor to understand. Keep in mind that social media and chat group information tends to be unmonitored and over sensationalized, with little accountability of sources. Speak to your health care provider if you have serious doubts. At the end of the day there is science and clinical judgment involved in managing this disease and pandemic.
What are some common COVID-19 myths?
There are so many. Here are some from a fact sheet we use at the hospital.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines aren’t safe because they were made too quickly.
Fact: The vaccine has been scientifically proven to be safe and effective. The COVID-19 vaccine went through clinical trials and safety reviews to get authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Over 40,000 people participated in the Pfizer vaccine clinical trials, and over 30,000, in the Moderna trials.
Myth: I can get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
Fact: You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. None of the approved COVID-19 vaccines use the live virus. There is nothing in the vaccine that can cause COVID-19. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA, which stands for messenger ribonucleic acid. mRNA teaches our cells how to make a protein that causes an immune response in our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine can change my DNA or genetic makeup.
Fact: The vaccine cannot change a person’s DNA or genetic makeup. The mRNA in the vaccine never affects or interact with your genetic material in any way. The body gets rid of the mRNA after 1-2 weeks.
Myth: Using mRNA in vaccines is a new technology that we know little about.
Fact: Scientists have been studying the use of mRNA in vaccines for decades.
Myth: I already had COVID-19, so I don’t need the vaccine.
Fact: You should get the vaccine, even if you had COVID-19. Experts don’t know if antibodies from infection can protect from re-infection. You can get the vaccine once your symptoms stop and after your recommended isolation period ends.
The arrival of the vaccine has caused a frenzy of both excitement and relief. When can we expect it to be available for everyone?
We are currently prioritizing vulnerable groups and high-risk exposure groups, as determined by the state. We expect the scaling up of production including better management of the logistics from the federal government. New large-scale vaccination centers are opening around the city, including Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and Javits Center. I am hoping optimistically that vaccine access will open to all in the next few weeks. As with all large-scale operations, one never knows if any unexpected impediments will arise causing delays.
After you're vaccinated, is it still important to wear a mask and practice social distancing?
The current recommendation, as reflected on the fact sheet, is that you should continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing after getting the vaccine. Even if you get the vaccine, you should still follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines. The vaccine protects you from getting ill from COVID-19, but experts don’t know if you can still carry the virus and spread it to others.
What do you think post-COVID-19 gym behavior patterns and etiquette will look like?
I think people will start appreciating the role of health and exercise much more in their lives. Some people may stay with their remote workout routines now that they know what works for them. But I think a large number of us really enjoy the social aspect of working out and will be back in gyms and classes when safe. In the meantime, I’ll continue my Fhitting Room LIVE! classes.
You're so busy! Why do you choose to make exercise, and Fhitting Room LIVE! specifically, a priority?
I think high intensity training is a great energizer that keeps me more active through the day. My work is busy and hard but I think it would tire me out more easily if exercise was not part of my routine. I like to see familiar faces, like the FHITpros who finally made me like workout classes by making them fun. It is also mentally comforting to have a connection to a favorite part of my pre-COVID life that I miss very much.