COVID-19 infections rise, concerns grow over fall

In Suffolk County, the number of positive COVID-19 tests has steadily increased over the past month, mirroring increases in other counties in the state and parts of the country.

As of May 9, the number of people testing positive per 100,000 population over a seven-day average was 47.8. That’s up from 34.9 a week earlier, 13.4 on April 9 and 6.3 on March 8, just over two months earlier, according to data from the United States Health Department. New York State.

“The numbers are growing,” said Dr. Mickel Khlat, chief medical officer at St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown. A month ago, Catholic Health had about 28 to 30 COVID-19 patients and that number has now dropped into the mid-60s. Most of them are incidental, he added, as the hospital discovered a positive test when a patient came in for another procedure. These positive tests, however, reveal the continued presence of the virus in the community. “I was hoping in 2022 that it would go away, but I don’t see it going away any time soon.”

Doctors and health officials in the region have suggested familiar practices to reduce risk, including social distancing and wearing masks in confined spaces indoors and updating vaccinations.

“Immunity to vaccines and immunity to infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus is waning, so we urge everyone to get vaccinated and get their booster or second booster if you are eligible,” said Suffolk County Department Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott. Health service, explained in an email.

Dr Sharon Nachman, chief of the pediatric infectious disease division at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, suggested the hospital recommends people speak to their primary care providers to get the best advice about their need for get a second callback.

“Often individuals may not realize that they belong to a category of vulnerable populations,” she explained in an email. “These can include not only adults with immune problems, but also those with heart and lung disease, kidney problems, obese people and, of course, the elderly.”

Khlat said since the virus first reached Suffolk County, obesity is often the underlying condition with the greatest risk factor for death, which was evident in the first and second surges. .

People of all ages in Suffolk County have been hospitalized, even children, Pigott added.

Recently, fewer sick people have needed medical attention in the intensive care unit.

The majority of people under 65 and in intensive care are unvaccinated, Pigott added.

In general, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 include breathing problems as well as fever, Nachman said. Other symptoms include gastrointestinal issues.

“If you are showing symptoms, please consider getting a rapid test to assess the possibility” of having the virus, Nachman added.

The coming fall and winter

In a broader context, state and national officials are anticipating a difficult fall and winter. Earlier this week, the White House estimated that the country could experience up to 100 million new infections without renewed mitigation measures.

Although disheartening, especially in the third year of the pandemic, the large number of potential new infections could encourage Congress to allocate more funds to fight the virus and alert state officials to the need for action. to protect residents.

Hospitals in the region have already begun to consider the possibility of a rise in infections later this year.

“We anticipate an increase in illnesses this fall and winter and are addressing those needs now” through supply chain preparedness and other measures, Nachman explained.

Khlat said St. Catherine continues to ensure the hospital has enough personal protective equipment, including N95 masks. While he suspects the tighter cold weather quarters could contribute to a surge, he doesn’t expect people to be as sick this time around.

If they become ill, patients can receive the first and second doses of remdesivir in the hospital, then receive their next doses at home, as part of a hospital-at-home program.

Medical options

Pigott urged those at risk and who tested positive to contact their doctor soon after testing positive and/or developing symptoms.

Those who contract COVID-19 have several treatment options, especially if they have mild to moderate symptoms and are at risk for severe illness.

“COVID-19 antiviral medications or therapies should be started within five to seven days of the onset of symptoms,” Pigott explained.

Nachman added that treatments for Covid include monoclonal antibodies and Paxlovid.

“They can be hard to get, hard to take and, especially for Paxlovid, have serious drug interactions,” Nachman warned. “They are indicated for those with underlying medical conditions. Other therapies, although less commonly available, include intravenous remdesivir.

Khlat said he had recently heard of two cases in which patients had taken a five-day course of Paxlovid.

“A week or two later they came back for monoclonal antibodies,” he said. People had “relapsed from Paxlovid. That, I had never heard of before.

In general, Khlat said Paxlovid worked well, although he also cautioned against drug interactions.

With fewer and fewer hospital stays for people who contract COVID-19, hospitals continue to have capacity. “We are not seeing an influx of patients admitted for COVID,” Khlat said.