COVID19 Update with Dr. Sonderman

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is constantly changing and accumulating mutations over time. New variants of SARS-CoV-2 are expected to continue to emerge. Some variants will emerge and disappear, while others will continue to spread and may replace previous variants. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other public health organizations monitor all variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, in the United States and globally.

A highly contagious subvariant of omicron, BA.2.12.1, has taken over as the dominant strain currently circulating in the U.S., and our area of the Midwest, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.2.12.1 was responsible for 58 percent of recorded new coronavirus cases last week (week of May 30 to June 1, 2022) in the CDC tracking region encompassing Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. 

BA.2.12.1 is believed to be about 25 percent more transmissible than BA.2, but there are no signs yet that it causes more severe disease.  There has been a significant increase in cases in the last two months, and it is believed that the current surge is significantly underestimated due to the use of in-home testing which is not typically reported to public health agencies. Even if a variant causes less severe disease in general, an increase in the overall number of cases could lead to more hospitalizations, putting more strain on healthcare resources. Increases in overall community spread can also potentially lead to more deaths, especially for those at-risk populations.

The development of a new dominant variant comes as coronavirus cases are increasing in the U.S., but mitigation measures (masking, social distancing, avoiding large indoor gatherings, getting vaccinated, etc.) have largely been abandoned. According to a recent Gallup survey more than a third of Americans believe that the pandemic is over. As the virus mutates and continues to spread those safety measures mentioned above continue to be very important for people to follow and observe. We know that they work.



What we’re seeing at Columbus Regional Hospital

CRH COVID census has increased in recent weeks; however, patients requiring intensive care has not increased with the recent increase in hospitalizations.

Also, CRH has not reported a COVID-related mortality since Feb 2022.  We think that gives some context to the disease severity that we’re seeing. COVID is definitely still circulating in our area and people are still at risk, but we’re seeing less severe illness, and fewer mortalities than previous variants. 

Getting a vaccine, and a booster when eligible, reduces your risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID. Breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated are expected, but being up to date on recommended vaccines is effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The continual emergence of variants further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.  Currently, our area is experiencing a high level of community transmission of the virus.  During periods of high community transmission please consider masking, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and avoiding large indoor gatherings particularly if you are at risk of developing severe complications of a COVID infection. To learn more visit our www.crh.org/virus.

CRH Infection Preventionist Andrea Stock contributed to this article.



Dr. Tom Sonderman
Dr. Sonderman is board certified in Emergency Medicine and is the Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at CRH.
 

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