COVID-19: Where Are We Now?
How safe are we right now within the hospital?
I can assure you that we have been safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are the safest we have ever been.
We have zero COVID patients in any of our hospitals. Our positive testing rate over the last seven days in the ambulatory setting has been 2%. Three of those days we had zero positive tests, and our number of tests have dropped.
What does this mean for you and your family?
It's essential that you don't delay your care. The patients that we see now are more sick than usual because of delaying care. We are here for you. It is the safest time to come here.
Will there be another surge?
Maybe, maybe not. But if you've already gotten care, then you will have avoided the risk that concerns you.
The Omicron BA2 variant is spreading across Europe. So, what does that mean to us? Every state in the U.S. has had a BA2 variant identified. Even states with an increased number of cases are seeing the number of hospitalized and ICU patients continue to drop.
If we do see a surge from BA2, I think it will be very minimal, very different from what we've seen in the past.
If you do experience symptoms of COVID, we want you to be seen in one of our primary care or urgent care clinics within the first five days of illness so that you can receive oral medication.
A lot of data supports masking. Here’s an analogy I use to explain the difference between cloth mask protection vs. surgical mask protection:
If you throw a baseball at a net, it gets blocked by the net. But if you a throw ping pong ball that has the weight of a baseball at the net, it would go through that net.
A cloth mask will block big droplets of saliva or spit—those are the baseballs. But it won't block respiratory isolates, which are very, very small particles of saliva or spit with a virus attached to it. That's why cloth masks aren't as good as surgical masks but are better than nothing.
An N95 mask blocks anything going through it, so it's basically like you put up a wall instead of a net.
Why is masking required at NMHS?
Why are we masking throughout NMHS when some other hospitals in the state are not? It really comes down to who owns the hospital.
Hospitals that are owned by the state or federal government do not fall under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which requires masking at hospitals that are not state or government owned—like NMHS. That’s why we're still masking and asking you to mask.
What about vaccination?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently recommended that anyone over age 50 receive a second booster shot, and I'm supportive of that. There is not a lot of data to support that, so it’s not as scientifically based as some of the other recommendations we have made.
Personally, I’d say if you’re making major travel plans, then it's probably reasonable to consider getting that booster because you'll be more protected. If you're worried about COVID, get the booster because you'll be more protected. I don't think there's anything that is risky or bad about it.
While I'm not sure we truly know the benefit of that approach, I plan to get the fourth shot two to three weeks before I travel.
Now that the pandemic has waned a bit, the biggest blessing is for my colleagues—every employee and volunteer, as well as everyone in our community—who has been affected by COVID or the political ramifications of COVID.
I think it's wonderful that we're not having the direct influence, but there's a lot of aftertaste from this drink. We still have the masking challenges, the political polarity challenges and things like that.
I personally think COVID is never going to really go away. It’s just going to be easier and easier for us to manage it, and we'll have less and less chance of a very bad variant. There's still always a risk of another virus or a bad variant of COVID.
As a doctor and health system leader, I feel like we're more prepared than we've ever been, and yet we have some real challenges. We've identified some really good things about ourselves. We need to listen to each other and care about each other… and heal.
The patients that we see now are more sick than usual because of delaying care.