Doctors are continuing to urge those who are eligible to get vaccinated, to mask up, to keep a social distance from others and to practice good hygiene — in a layered effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Doctors from the University of South Florida, BayCare and AdventHealth delivered that message in two separate virtual sessions held last week.
“As we opened the school year, it was truly what I call the perfect storm,” Dr. Christina Canody, pediatric service line medical director for BayCare said, during a Zoom call arranged by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who represents Florida’s 14th congressional district.
“Last year, when we opened, we had mandate mask requirements, we had some of the lowest rates of infectivity, positivity and prevalence that we had seen during the pandemic,” Canody said.
“This year, we were at absolute opposite ends of the spectrum.
“We were at very high prevalence and positivity rates, and we continue to see a large number of children impacted,” Canody said.
She emphasized that despite the tremendous increase in pediatric admissions to the hospital, that children generally have a less complicated course of treatment and pediatric death rates remain low.
However, she noted that the hospital chain had 180 pediatric admissions in August, which was the highest number, by far.
“The majority of those are cared for at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital,” the pediatrician said.
“We have seen an uptick in our emergency room visits, and in general, we still have capacity,” she said.
But the increase in pediatric cases, coupled with the surge in adult cases, puts a strain on health care workers, she said.
Previously, many of the hospital’s pediatric staff had transitioned to help care for adults, she said.
The hospitalization of a child also takes a toll on families — both emotionally and financially, and disrupts their daily lives, she said.
She also talked about the importance of children being able to go to school.
She noted that the social isolation during last school year has had a lasting effect on some children’s mental health.
She also noted that many people are coping with the death of relatives, colleagues or friends.
Canody emphasized the need to educate people about the seriousness of the pandemic.
She put it this way: “It’s going to continue to circulate as long as it continues to be transmitted. Most pandemics last, on average, three years.”
She underscored these steps to help reduce the spread:
- Become fully vaccinated, if you’re eligible.
- Wear a face mask. “It’s more important if a person who is infected wears one, but if you wear one as well, you can decrease your risk of being exposed to the virus,” she said.
- Practice good hand hygiene. “For little kids, we try to encourage them to keep their hands to themselves and keep their things to themselves, and also to wash their hands frequently.”
- Stay home, if you’re not feeling well.
“We all have to take care of each other,” Canody said. “It is a little defeating sometimes, when people don’t heed the message. And, I can be honest with you that personally, I’ve had family members who have been affected by this virus. I know people personally who have passed away from this virus.
“The majority of our patients in the hospital are unvaccinated and the majority of the deaths we are seeing now are unvaccinated.”
Dr. Jason Salemi, of the University of South Florida, noted “nine or 10 weeks ago we had about six children being hospitalized every day in the entire state, with COVID-19.
“We’ve had a (more than) 10-fold increase, where more recently, over the past seven days, it’s been about 66 children being hospitalized every day, with confirmed COVID-19,” Salemi said.
The USF doctor also shared statistics regarding numbers of people who are not fully vaccinated in Florida. He said those figures stand at 1 million, among those ages 12 to 17; 5.5 million for those 18 to 64; and 800,000 among those 65 and older.
There’s also 2.8 million children in Florida who are younger than 12 who cannot be vaccinated, he said.
“The most heavily vaccinated group in our society is our seniors, and they are realizing the benefits of vaccination more than any other group,” Salemi said.
The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce also hosted a Zoom session involving Amanda Maggard, president and CEO of AdventHealth Dade City and AdventHealth Zephyrhills, and Dr. Rodrigo Torres, vice president and chief medical officer for the two hospitals.
Maggard told those listening that “about 90% of our admissions have not been vaccinated. So, the science really is proving true that vaccinations save lives, vaccinations prevent critical illness, so we really want to get the word out in the community and try to increase vaccination. That’s going to be our best way to get through this virus.”
She added that wearing masks continues to be important.
She also touched on the availability of a new monoclonal antibody treatment for patients who are 12 or older. The treatment can prevent hospitalization or death in COVID-19 patients.
The state has opened a number of sites offering the treatment, including the Fasano Hurricane Shelter, at 11611 Denton Ave., in Hudson.
AdventHealth also is offering it at its Dade City campus. (Call the hospital or check its website for details.)
Torres gave a brief history on the pandemic and touched on various strains of the virus.
While much has been reported about the Delta variant, Torres said there’s another strain, known as the lambda, which is being carefully watched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The lambda was identified in Peru at the end of last year, he said.
“It’s one that’s very virulent and it’s able to escape the mechanisms of how the vaccine works,” Torres said. “We believe that for the time being, we have a good control over this lambda variant, but this is one that actually concerns the CDC the most, out of all of these variants of interest.”
Torres also touched on the fact that the Pfizer vaccine has received FDA approval, and the hospital has recommended its staff get the third shot.
“The data has proven that on your third vaccine, you provide antibodies up to nine times the amount of what you normally would have produced just by keeping your two-vaccine regimen,” Torres said.
Published September 08, 2021
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