Friday Media Briefing on COVID-19

Friday Media Briefing on COVID-19

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The number of active COVID-19 patients being treated at The University of Kansas Health System is slightly lower today. 66 people with the active virus are hospitalized, down from 69 yesterday. 21 patients are in the ICU, same as yesterday. 10 of those ICU patients are on ventilators today, same as yesterday. 54 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID-19 but are out of the acute infection phase, up from 48 yesterday. That’s a total of 120 patients, up from 117 yesterday. In addition, HaysMed has a total of 19 COVID-19 inpatients, down from 22 yesterday, with 17 of those active patients and 2 in the recovery phase.
On today’s Morning Media Update, Dr. Gregory Poland (rhymes with Holland), a physician-scientist and the founding and current director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group returned. Dr. Poland is also editor-in-chief for the journal Vaccine. His work focuses in part on the development of novel vaccines against emerging public health threats and he explained in more detail vaccine variants and how they stack up against the current vaccines.
Dr. Polland says the Mayo clinic is seeing what we’re seeing in Kansas City, a decrease in the number of hospitalized patients and those in the ICU but starting to see another increase in the number of positive cases in the community. He says the biggest concern is the effect of the virus variants, which have caused numbers to soar. He stressed that while reports the variants are no more lethal than the original virus are true, the number of deaths and hospitalizations are up exponentially because so many more people are infected. The variants, he warns, are 40-50% more transmissible. But the good news, he says, is the vaccines should still be effective, though there is still a lot to learn. He’s confident that the vaccines can be adjusted periodically, like the flu vaccine, to handle new strains of the virus. He says never in the context of a pandemic have we had the luxury of multiple vaccines, and more to come, so quickly. He understands the thinking behind the incoming administration wanting to release all the vaccines now rather than holding back enough for second doses. But he says the clinical trials didn’t test that theory, and there is the worry that people won’t come back for the second shot, which would offer the most immunity. He says there are two types of people who are hesitant to get the vaccine. Those who have questions about it and those who reject the science. He says it’s legitimate to have questions and seek answers. To those who reject the science, he says you’ll have a difficult life making decisions on something which is neither repeatable nor generalizable, so you’ll be guessing all your life. He says while no vaccine is perfectly safe or perfectly effective, these come as close as any vaccine he’s ever seen with 95 percent effectiveness. He asks his patients if they think as physicians, they would be taking vaccines that they think will cause more harm than good. He believes that when supplies are plentiful, vaccinating a million people a day in the country is possible. He also pointed out that the common side effects such as arm pain, fatigue and mild fever are signs the vaccine is working. He said unless we get at least 80 percent of the population vaccinated, we’re going to have a long, very dark period in our history. He says all of the advances in medicine in the last decade which have increased life expectancy have been erased by the death rate of this virus and the U.S. life expectancy has dropped by a little over a year, which he calls a stunning number. He implores everyone to not give up on infection prevention, even after getting the vaccine.
Dana. Hawkinson, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System, said the vaccine will not produce a positive COVID-19 test result, nor will taking Tylenol decrease its effectiveness. He says having had Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome will not preclude you from getting this vaccine. He says the virus continues to evolve, like all viruses do. He urges us all to stay safe during the holiday weekend.
David Wild, MD, PV of Performance Improvement at The University of Kansas Health System, sat in for Dr. Stites. He noted that about a third of healthcare workers are hesitant at getting the vaccine, but not declining. He feels that number will drop as more and more people get the vaccine and it’s shown the side effects are minimal. He explained how the health system will have a role in community vaccinations and said we’ve learned a lot from vaccinating 2000 workers a day. He said even if you’ve had the virus, it’s important you still get vaccinated since there’s no indication how long you’ll have that immunity.