Intermountain webinar gives COVID-19 update after the holiday weekend in Utah

Intermountain Healthcare hosted a webinar on Monday to give an update on the status of COVID-19 after the Pioneer Day holiday weekend in Utah. Dr. Taki May, medical director of Logan Regional Hospital and health care hospitalist, discussed breakthrough cases, symptoms and suggestions regarding the Delta variant, and recommended precautions for health care workers. 

 

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May said hospitals are ready for the potential surge from the Delta variant because they have already dealt with COVID surges. However, the stress of the pandemic has significantly diminished the workforce and drove nurses out of hospitals. COVID patients coupled with increased hospitalizations of trauma victims, and those who delayed care during the pandemic, are causing hospitals to be “bursting at the seams”, according to May. 

May continued to discuss information on breakthrough cases of COVID. May thinks these cases will increase as the virus mutates. 

“As our variants become more diverse, they are going to escape our vaccines. But right now the vaccines we have are still very effective against the variants that we are seeing, and we really need the entire population to participate in the vaccination effort.”

However, breakthrough cases are still rare, according to May. 

“People need to change their mindset and recognize that we hear about the scary stuff because it is scary, and we don’t hear about the mundane stuff which is [that] millions of people successfully vaccinated [are] avoiding COVID.”

May also discussed the health impacts of the new Delta variant. She said studies show people infected with the Delta variant have 1,000 times the viral load within their nasal passages when compared to people infected with the original virus, causing it to be much more infectious. Preliminary data shows it to be more deadly as well, she said. 

“I can tell you from working the weekend [that] the patients we are seeing in the hospital are younger and healthier than the folks that we saw last spring.”

If unvaccinated, infected persons should expect the loss of taste and smell to be less common in Delta, according to May. Delta has a wide range of presentations, making it challenging to know when to get tested. May suggests people showing any respiratory symptoms get tested.

Those who are vaccinated, but still contract the Delta variant, experience fever and high fatigue. If one experiences these symptoms, May recommends getting tested. 

May then discussed the progress on full FDA approval of the Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna vaccines. Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna have conducted studies of 30,000-35,000 people since COVID has been so prevalent. May said the vaccines will hopefully be approved sometime in the fall. 

May then offered up suggestions for kids below the age of 12, for whom vaccines have yet to be approved, as they prepare to return to school this fall. May is worried for the safety of these students due to their poorer health habits. 

“I am worried about kids going back to school with the vaccine not being available to them because they are not great at hand hygiene, they like to share things, including germs. I think it is a good idea to have kids masked and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended masking for kids going back to school this fall.”

May highlighted the importance of not delaying care due to fears of COVID infection in hospitals. Hospitals take numerous precautions to keep COVID patients away from non-COVID patients and provide isolation for all patients. 

“If you are coming in for a different type of condition, we have the ability to keep you safe. We want to provide you with the care you need. Delaying care usually means that your condition is going to show up in a more serious state. So, please don’t delay your care.”