6 Months of COVID-19: Where Are We Now and What’s Ahead
Chief physician executive Bruce Swords, MD, PhD, gives an update on COVID-19 in our community and discusses the importance of flu shots in this 2 Your Well-Being discussion with WFMY News 2.
What have we learned in the last 6 months?
“We've learned that we are still learning a lot. And so when we think about COVID-19 and our response clinically, initially how we took care of sick people and how we're taking care of sick people now, it has changed significantly related to how we use oxygen and ventilators and medications that we might have used at one point, and now we're not using anymore and we're using different types of medications. To think that all of that has happened in a clinical environment in our hospitals in 6 months, not just in our hospital but across the nation, it's incredible.”
Are ventilators still being used as part of COVID-19 treatment?
“We're certainly using [ventilators] some, but not nearly like we did at the beginning. When coronavirus became part of our national discussion, it was quite common that these patients developed pneumonia. It looks similar to something we call ARDS, and in a normal circumstance, a lot of those people end up on a ventilator. For reasons that we really don't understand, patients with COVID-19 who developed this ARDS seem to tolerate lower oxygen levels for longer and are reasonably comfortable and don't need to be ventilated.”
What do the COVID-19 numbers look like now, and what do they mean?
“We track all sorts of numbers in our state and certainly within Cone Health, and something we pay particular attention to is how many people are in our hospitals at any one time that also have COVID-19. And we're typically seeing around 50-60 patients at any one time in our hospitals, typically at the Green Valley campus, but some of them could be in our emergency departments as well. That number has been relatively stable for the past couple of weeks. Prior to that, we have seen peaks, we've seen lower numbers occasionally than that, but on average, we're pretty steady in the 50 to 60 range.”
How much longer do you anticipate COVID-19 will be in our community and impact our daily lives?
“We anticipate coronavirus, COVID-19, to be part of us for the foreseeable future. We have a great data analytics team that looks at trends and transmission rate and the number of patients who have COVID-19 in our communities, and they take all of that data in addition to a lot of public data and estimate how many patients we'll continue to see in the next 2 to 3 months. And we anticipate that we'll continue to see in the 50 to 60, maybe 70 range over the next few months. So unfortunately, our analytics team - and they're quite good - would say that we're going to see the same number of patients that we're currently seeing.”
What is the state of the COVID-19 vaccine?
“The state of the vaccines is that they're in trials. Some of these are even in phase three trials, and some of the viewers and listeners may have signed up to be in one of these trials, and these trials are looking for a large number of people to be vaccinated. They have already shown that these vaccines, in the short term, don't cause any harm, and so people are now getting vaccinated. It might take a couple of vaccinations and then they'll be followed over a few months, getting blood tests and understanding whether any of them get infected with COVID-19 or not. We anticipate that those trials will take another few months before any data is obtained from them and any conclusions are made. So we're looking towards the end of this year in the best possible scenario where vaccines could really be available on a relatively large scale.”
Should I get the flu vaccine? Will it help protect me from COVID-19?
“We'll start at the beginning of your question. Yes, get the flu vaccine. Just get it. It's the right thing to do, it's always been the right thing to do. There are a few, very few patients, people who should not get flu immunization, but it's few and far between and those people already know who they are. By and large, we should all get it.
“And then the answer to the other part of your question: there's no data that suggests [the flu vaccine] will help prevent you from getting COVID-19. We would think that it will help - if by chance you've got COVID-19 and were exposed to flu, we really think that could be a problem. Again, we don't know that data very well either, but get the flu immunization.”