Doctors say vaccines will not only protect the community, but help reduce more mutations of the virus
ORLANDO, Fla., July 8, 2021 – The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized across AdventHelath’s hospitals in Central Florida jumped by about 100 during the past two weeks to about 310 as the hospital system is finding more cases of Delta, Gamma and other variants of the virus.
“The key to this, though, is that you are still protected from the Delta and Gamma variants if you are vaccinated,” said Dr. Steven R. Smith, AdventHelath’s chief scientific officer at today’s AdventHealth Morning Briefing.
The vaccine not only keeps people safe, but significantly reduces transmission from person to person, which is how the virus mutates into more contagious and deadly strains, he said.
AdventHealth has submitted about 1,000 specimens from COVID-19 patients for testing with partners Helix, a population genomics company, and the Florida Department of Health. About half have turned up as variants of concern such as the Delta and Gamma strains, which are more contagious and potentially more fatal, Smith said.
Smith said it’s important for the hospital’s clinicians to know which variants are present in the community because specific types of early interventional treatments such as monoclonal antibodies are more effective on certain strains. Smith recommended that people who test positive for COVID-19 who have risk factors such as obesity, pulmonary disease or other immunocompromising conditions see their doctors for those therapeutics, which are effective in keeping COVID-19 patients out of the hospital.
Dr. Khaled Fernainy, associate director of the Intensive Care Unit at AdventHealth Orlando, said it is still difficult, nearly 18 months after the start of the pandemic, to watch COVID-19 patients endure the isolation and physical impacts of the disease.
“The vast majority of folks in the ICU are unvaccinated and they tend to be younger,” he said. “For a good portion of them these are avoidable hospitalizations that, for some, will change their lives.”
The vaccinated people in the ICU generally have significant comorbidities such as immune-compromising diseases that rendered the vaccine less effective against the disease, he said.
For now, Smith said the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control remains prudent related to masks: People who are vaccinated can go out into their communities without a mask.
He cautioned, though, that if the rate of COVID infections continues to increase some of that guidance may need to be adjusted.