COVID-19 Q&A: Dr. Lee Norman addresses pandemic-related concerns over Instagram Live

Natalie Mulllin, president of WellCAT Ambassadors, interviews Dr. Lee Norman on Kansas State's Instagram Live on Thursday. (Jared Shuff | Collegian Media Group) Photo credit: Jared Shuff

Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, answered questions related to COVID-19 through Instagram Live on Thursday.

Kansas State announced the interview Wednesday, asking people to submit questions by email beforehand.

The interview was conducted by Natalie Mullin, senior in biology and Spanish and WellCAT Ambassador president.

Norman provided advice and information about the pandemic, including an update on the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“There’s some leaders in this,” Norman said. “The Oxford-AstraZeneca people are farthest down the road … in Phase 3.”

Multiple vaccines will likely become available eventually, Norman said, but some experts believe this may not happen until mid-2021. Others believe one will be available by November or December. Norman has his eyes set on the latter.

“I actually think we’re going to have a vaccine before the end of the year,” he said.

Health care workers, first responders, military members and high-risk populations will likely be first to receive the vaccine once it is released.

College students might have to wait to receive a vaccination.

“I think we’re going to be fairly prescriptive,” Norman said. “I don’t know that college kids will be top of the list.”

COVID-19 case numbers have risen at college campuses throughout the country, something Norman said he predicted would happen. He said he expects cases will continue to grow.

“We’ve had a bump in the number of cases, then it dropped down a little bit, has gone up and has leveled off now,” Norman said. “It’s going to go up strikingly in the fall and winter.”

As temperatures fall, some experts believe the possibility of contracting the virus increases. Students are advised to take necessary precautions as the semester continues.

“I know young people typically feel like they’re kind of invincible and can’t be harmed by something like this,” Norman said. “It’s a serious problem that we need to contain, otherwise you might end up having to have a gap year.”

Norman also addressed student concerns about testing, the need for a social life and general mental health amid the pandemic. He recommends students get tested for the sake of others and that there is no embarrassment in getting tested.

“You want to know if you have it because you don’t want to give it to anybody,” he said.

Between lockdown and unrestrained social activity, Norman said there is a middle ground to look for in terms of interaction.

“I think one of the real key things is just being honest with yourself and saying ‘We got this, we need to back it off just a little bit, but we can still have fun and be safe at the same time,’” he said.

Norman said he worked as a social worker in a mental health center before attending medical school, and he understands the impact COVID-19 has had on mental health.

“People are [at a] higher risk for suicide, self-harm, depression, anxiety. I think a couple of things are really important,” Norman said. “One is to ask for help. The second thing … is keeping [an eye] on your buddies.”

Students can find counseling services and other resources on the K-State website.

“I’m in the military, and we call our friends and colleagues battle buddies,” Norman said. “You know, we’re in this war against COVID-19, we’re all battle buddies together.”

My name is Jared Shuff, and I am a former editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously, I worked as the arts & culture editor and as a contributing writer for the news desk. I am a senior in secondary education with an emphasis in English/journalism. I grew up in Hutchinson, Kansas, and attended Hutchinson Community College before transferring to K-State in 2020.