Two years in the past, in early 2022, when The Atlanta Journal-Structure visited Northeast Georgia Medical Heart, 18 of the 24 intensive care unit (ICU) beds have been stuffed with COVID sufferers. Below a maze of machines, tubes and wires, sufferers struggled with all the pieces from dangerously low oxygen ranges to coronary heart issues and organ failure. Some have been on the verge of dying.
As we speak, far fewer individuals die or change into significantly ailing as a result of vaccines and prior infections have boosted their immunity and lowered the severity of sicknesses. On a go to to the hospital on February 5, solely three of the ICU beds have been filled with COVID. And lots of the hospitalized COVID sufferers solely examined optimistic after being admitted for different causes, comparable to most cancers surgical procedure or appendicitis.
The newest preliminary knowledge on weekly COVID deaths in Georgia reveals 14 COVID deaths for the week ending February three. January knowledge, which is taken into account extra dependable, reveals about 50 COVID deaths per week in Georgia.
The variety of new COVID hospitalizations in Georgia for the week ending February three was 740, down from 834 the earlier week, an 11% drop.
In September 2021, shortly after vaccines turned out there and a extra contagious Delta variant circulated, there have been a staggering 995 deaths through the week ending September four, 2021. And the spike in new COVID hospitalizations in Georgia it was 5,600 for the week ending January 9, 2021.
As we speak there are extra therapy choices. And though the present omicron variants are significantly extra contagious than earlier variants, medical doctors at Northeast Georgia Medical Heart stated they don’t assault the lungs as aggressively as earlier strains. However COVID stays a menace, particularly for older individuals and folks with weakened immune programs.
The AJC not too long ago returned to the ICU and interviewed Glass and infectious illness doctor Dr. Supriya Mannepalli about how the coronavirus has modified and the way sick sufferers are being managed now. The next is a Q&A with Mannepalli. A few of her feedback have been edited for size and readability.
Q: What’s it like being hospitalized with COVID now?
Mannepalli: I feel from the early days till now, what we've seen is a change in total severity and fewer total severity. However there are nonetheless sufferers who produce other threat elements (power medical situations, immunosuppressive situations) who will not be updated on their vaccines, who change into sick sufficient to should be hospitalized. However that determine is way decrease in comparison with earlier surges we've seen in 2020 and 2021.
Q: What number of COVID sufferers are presently hospitalized at Northeast Georgia Medical System?
Mannepalli: COVID sufferers throughout the well being system are between 40 and 50 years outdated and this contains all hospitals and likewise long-term care (the system contains 5 hospitals). This doesn't imply they’re right here particularly due to COVID. Most of them are right here for one thing else and check optimistic for COVID. However there are those that are actually right here for COVID-related respiratory infections. These are sufferers with low immunity and different medical situations, and who will not be updated with their vaccines.
There are additionally these sufferers who’re right here for an additional challenge and if they’ve comorbidities, a COVID analysis on high of what they’re already coping with may cause a affected person to change into significantly ailing and want ICU stage care.
Q: What appears to make the largest distinction?
Mannepalli: I feel the one factor I maintain stressing is the significance of staying updated with COVID vaccines, and final I checked the acceptance of the brand new vaccine may be very, very low. General, possibly 20% throughout the U.S. So these are very low numbers, and particularly those that are aged, at excessive threat of growing extreme COVID, it's essential to remain updated on their vaccines.
(In Georgia, the vaccination price is even decrease. Solely about 7% of Georgians have acquired the up to date COVID-19 vaccine, in line with the newest figures from the state Division of Public Well being.)
In the case of oral remedies (such because the antiviral Paxlovid, which may be taken at house) For individuals who are excessive threat within the outpatient setting, begin taking it early so it doesn’t progress to critical an infection later.
If they’re right here and admitted, our remedies are nonetheless primarily the antiviral remdesivir and steroids; In the event that they want oxygen, that too.
Q: Is COVID now one in all a number of viruses you're coping with together with the flu? How was that?
Mannepalli: One factor we’re noticing is a critical flu season this 12 months. We’ve got seen some sufferers with a extreme influenza an infection and others with a secondary bacterial an infection. This season now we have seen some very, very sick flu sufferers, together with some who wanted to be intubated (to assist them breathe mechanically).
Most of these hospitalized with the flu weren’t vaccinated in opposition to the flu.
Vaccines may also help. Even once they don't match completely (with circulating strains), they assist stop illness.