BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — On Wednesday afternoon, Virginia Tech hosted a coronavirus panel with local health leaders, who discussed how the Commonwealth could possibly be battling the virus for another 18 months.
The university’s COVID-19 panel on Wednesday, Oct. 20 consisted of Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District; Dr. Lee Learman, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine; and Dr. Paul Skolnik, Chair of Medicine and an infectious disease physician with Carilion Clinic.
Despite the falling coronavirus case numbers, hospitals in our region are seeing the worst of it.
“For hospitalized patients, we have not seen a decline,” said Dr. Skolnik. “We have more hospitalized patients now than we ever had, and that is leading to a higher death rate than we ever had.”
In Carilion hospitals, Dr. Skolnik says he has seen the continued virus spread kill a number of people.
“Fully, a third of the patients admitted are in ICUs, and that is very different than the past,” said Dr. Skolnik.
According to the panelists, too many people are trying to rely on antibody testing to gauge their immune response rather than hedging their bets with the vaccine.
Dr. Bissell says that antibody testing does not give health officials a full picture of immunity. Dr. Skolnik seconded her comment, saying that the commercially available antibody test is not standardized.
“You cannot compare one to the other and don’t measure what infectious disease persons correlate with immunity,” said Dr. Skolnik.
With flu season just around the corner, already overwhelmed healthcare systems could be in even bigger trouble as flu patients pile up.
Health experts say the best way to stay out of the hospital is to go ahead and get your COVID-19 vaccine and your flu shot at the same time. This includes pregnant women.
“Pregnant women, even healthy ones, can be at high risk of serious disease…severe disease from just the regular flu, and we see hospitalization annually on that basis. Flu shots are very safe to give in pregnancy,” said Dr. Learman.
You can watch the full recording of Wednesday’s Virginia Tech COVID-19 panel below:
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