Home Local News COVID-19 Health officials address coronavirus-related debates, topics

Health officials address coronavirus-related debates, topics

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By CALLAN PUGH
City editor

As the coronavirus pandemic has played out, a debate has been raging online and in person about the virus, its effects on those who get it, the way the facts and case counts have been reported and if it is something that should be taken seriously, or just serious government overreach.

The Daily Chief-Union reached out to local health officials Wyandot County Health Commissioner and Wyandot County Health District Medical Director Dr. Keri Harris and Wyandot County Public Health Director of Nursing Darlene Steward to address some of the most commonly-discussed topics related to the virus.

Assertion: More testing equals more positive cases.

Harris said while there is more testing happening, the numbers of tests to positives have been disproportionately increasing, with a higher percentage of tests resulting in positives when compared to past testing numbers.

“I believe [the positive case numbers] are worse [than what we’re seeing],” Harris said Friday. I believe there are more people getting infected because they’re not being as careful. I mean we’ve had more hospitalizations, OSU has been on diversion. … It is worse than it was last month.

“People are sicker. There’s more people coming in, there’s more people asking for tests. We’ve been testing for a while and the last week or so there’s just been a lot more activity.”

Steward said the testing is being done on people who are symptomatic.

“It’s not because more folks are coming in and they want a test just to see,” Steward explained. “More folks are coming in because they are symptomatic.”

Additionally, Harris said testing of potentially asymptomatic individuals is currently not happening, aside from exceptions such as those who are having a procedure or who are admitted to the hospital, because there is currently a shortage of the reagent used for testing.

Previously those who were visiting a newborn baby or who were visiting a sick loved one were being allowed to get tested for COVID-19, but that is currently halted, Harris said.

According to Steward the majority of Wyandot County’s active cases announced last week were not related, meaning they were found around the community and were not thought to be caused as part of an outbreak — though Steward said some of the recent case numbers were part of an outbreak.

“[There were] multiple reasons and not a lot of correlation with the majority of [the cases],” Steward said. “We’ve had a couple [patients who tested positive] who were asymptomatic, but most were symptomatic who tested positive this week.”

Assertion: COVID-19 is no different from the flu.

“Well the symptoms are similar,” Harris said. “A lot of people get the fever, a cough, shortness of breath, like the same sort of symptoms — muscle aches and pains — but as far as the mortality associated with COVID-19, last I checked it was about three times the flu in adults.”

Harris said if people social distance and wear masks she hopes the virus will become less contagious but said “right now it’s pretty darn contagious.”

Harris explained that the flu has existed in the world for many seasons and as such, while the flu mutates, humans have been able to build up some immunity over time, giving some protection.

“This virus you have zero protection going in, because it’s completely new and so starting out everyone has zero immunity,” Harris said.

Another difference between the flu and COVID-19 is the lack of available treatments, Harris said. With nothing to treat COVID-19, the disease contracted from the novel coronavirus, it is more dangerous than the flu, when a person gets sick.

Assertion: The numbers are inflated. Deaths have been attributed to those who tested positive but died from other causes, such as old age.

Steward said the health department has worked to be transparent from the beginning in the numbers it is reporting, sharing demographic information that allows residents to track cases to see that duplicate cases are not being counted and to follow along with the situation in the county as far as test results are able to indicate. The numbers she said are in no way inflated.

“For those that have passed, when they were diagnosed with COVID-19, they were diagnosed, and then their condition progressed,” Steward said. “Did they have other comorbidities and so forth, some of them yes, many of them yes, but they died of COVID-19. If they wouldn’t have had that virus, they wouldn’t have been hospitalized and then ended up in the situation, and progressively worse, and then passed [if they hadn’t] gotten that virus.”

Steward said the end goal in precautions such as distancing, mask wearing and hand washing, is avoiding COVID-19-related deaths in Wyandot County.

“We’re all going to die someday; I don’t want anyone to die of COVID-19 in Wyandot County,” Steward said. “There are things that we can do to take precautions, such as the mask wearing, social distancing, washing our hands and being contentious of those that we are around to prevent that from happening to someone.”

Assertion: It’s not a virus at all; reports have shown it’s bacteria.

“It’s definitely a virus,” Harris said. “They definitely know that, because they’re engineering vaccines to  combat it, so if it were bacteria, we would have a lot more options for treatment.”

Assertion: Vaccines will/won’t be more effective because COVID-19 doesn’t/does mutate like the flu.

“The vaccines are still in trials, so we don’t know the answers to that,” Harris said. “That’s why they’re studying them right now, or why they’re developing them right now, is trying to find a safe and effective vaccine.”

Harris said medical professionals won’t rush vaccines through and have them not be safe or effective.

“I can’t speak to that, because it’s impossible to say right now until they actually develop the vaccine and we read those studies,” she said of the effectiveness.

Coronaviruses typically mutate less than the flu virus, Harris said, but with COVID-19 coronavirus, because it is so new, researchers still don’t have all the answers and as such don’t know yet what it will do in the future and how it will act as time goes on.

Assertion: The virus is pure politics. It will be done with after Election Day in November.

Steward and Harris both agreed they would love to see the novel coronavirus go away after Election Day.

“If that happens, I will be absolutely ecstatic,” Harris said. “But yeah, that’s not going to happen. But it would be great if we did — unless we get a vaccine in November, then maybe, but even then — it’s not going to happen.”

Steward said she wished people could see the pandemic from a health care worker’s perspective: physicians and hospitals working with very ill patients, hospitals that are being overwhelmed, physicians in general having increased workloads helping patients and those who are concerned about getting sick and utilizing telemedicine.

“Just the increase in the workload for health care and multiple other [professions] even outside of health care, I just don’t see that anyone could think that it would be a political ploy — what the advantage of that would be,” Steward said, with Harris adding that things people enjoy such as sports have been canceled, and churches and casinos have had to close around the country, all due to the virus.

Read the first article in this two-part series addressing mask use with Harris and Steward  online now at dailychiefunion.com or pick up a copy of the July 27 print edition at the Daily Chief-Union office, 111 W. Wyandot Ave., Upper Sandusky.


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