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Published on January 25, 2021

Where Are We Now With COVID-19? | January 2021

Get the latest updates on COVID-19 numbers, vaccines and safety from Chief Physician Executive Bruce Swords, MD, PhD, in this 2 Your Well-Being discussion with WFMY News 2. 

What is the latest update about Cone Health vaccination clinics and appointments?

“Vaccines have been a point of difficulty over the past 3 days or so. We at Cone Health and Guilford County have been pretty aggressive about vaccinating as many folks as we could. We had a great week last week and then on Friday, unexpected to all of us, the state announced that Guilford County and Cone Health were not going to get any vaccines this week - and I'll be clear on that - any first dose vaccines this week. And so that means that the 10,400 vaccines, first vaccines, that we had scheduled for this week needed to be cancelled, and we are going to do our very best to get those rescheduled. So a significant disappointment and somewhat of a surprise from the state of North Carolina.”

“There was a call today with the state and a wide group of hospitals, health systems and county leaders, describing the mechanisms going forward. So I'll be hopeful that next week, we'll get some vaccines, but given our experience with the state in last week's experience, we're going to be very cautious in scheduling future vaccines.”

Will appointments for second-doses that have already been scheduled be affected?

“Second vaccines should be delivered on time and in accordance with schedules. So if you had your first vaccine, you likely received an appointment for the second vaccine. It's very likely that you will keep that appointment, even if there has been some communication that the schedule needed to be cancelled - or the appointment needed to be cancelled and rescheduled. If you're one of those people, you'll get further communication, and expect to get the 2nd vaccine on time.”

What do COVID-19 numbers currently look like? 

“At Cone Health, we have seen a little bit of a decline over the past couple of weeks. And so this morning in all of Cone Health's hospitals, there are around 224 patients in all of our facilities. Of course, that is a moment in time and it fluctuates throughout the day, but you can compare that to maybe 280 patients a few weeks ago. And I'll also remind your viewers that really 3 and a half months ago, that number was 30. So we've seen a sharp incline over and maybe over the past couple of weeks, a slow decline, and we're hopeful about that.”

Do you expect numbers to trend upwards or downwards in the coming months?

“Good question, and it's too early to tell. And so when we think about that question with our Enterprise Analytics team, our data scientists are really trying to take all sorts of different variables. What does the  decline really look like? What's the positivity rate? How many people are getting vaccinated? What's the mask utilization? Really trying to put that all into a comprehensive view of what will come. Today, the predictive models look like there will be an increase and we have to make sure we understand these are predictions, and so given that, these variables might change. I'm hopeful that maybe we'll continue to see a flattening or maybe even a continued decline.”

What should we know about non-time-sensitive surgeries?

“Yes, over the past 2-3 weeks, we at Cone Health made the decision to really limit non-time-sensitive surgeries and other procedures. And given that the numbers have flattened out or even declined over the past couple of weeks, we're going to make a decision that allows for increased elective or non-time-sensitive procedures and surgeries to take place. So if you're one of those people that was delayed, you'll likely be hearing from the hospital, the health system or your doctor to reschedule those procedures.”

Are there concerns about the new strain of COVID-19? How can we protect ourselves from it?

“So, we've all seen in the news and in the medical literature that there are new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus – and that is expected. It's not unexpected and viruses, whether it's a flu virus or in this case, the virus that causes COVID, all of these viruses mutate all of the time, and some of these mutations can result in viruses that can survive and sometimes even be more aggressive. So that's the concern.”

“We don't know a whole lot about these viruses, so anything that you're reading is all very preliminary information and we are convinced that the same actions that help prevent people from getting COVID-19, the traditional SARS-CoV-2 virus, will also help protect against these new variants. So same things we've been doing – wear masks. Wash your hands. Stay away from each other. Don't gather in large groups.”

Where Are We Now With COVID-19?

2 Your Well-Being

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