DR. Rutul Dalala
A UPMC infectious disease expert briefed on the state of affairs in Lycoming County and reminded residents how to reduce the risk of COVID-19 while on vacation.
Dr. Rutul Dalal, Infectious Disease Expert at UPMC Williamsport, briefed the community on the state of COVID.
COVID cases are currently 70% year-on-year, Dalal said, and around 85% of current cases are unvaccinated people.
Most of these people fall in the 30-50 age group as this is where vaccination reluctance is concentrated, Dalal said, and he said the cases are not as severe in people who have been vaccinated.
The 15% of COVID-19 cases in vaccinated individuals occur in the elderly or those with severe comorbidities, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. The patient does not need intensive care.
To the best of Dalal’s knowledge, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has not yet been detected in Lycoming County. He said scientists will look for more cases in younger people who have received the vaccine and booster and who have no comorbidities before they start doing gene sequences and tests.
“What we’ve heard from our colleagues in South Africa and African countries is that [omicron] is not very serious, but things can change as it penetrates our older communities. “ said Dalal. “Right now it doesn’t seem as severe as Delta, but it’s definitely more transferable than Delta.”
Dalal expects an increase in the population, particularly due to the low prevalence of vaccines in the population. He also said that COVID fatigue is keeping residents vigilant and that the Omicron variant could easily seize this opportunity to spread.
Dalal also said the flu is rising its head this year, compared to last year due to plant closings and heightened public health awareness.
However, one of the bigger factors is that non-COVID-related emergencies also have their heads raised, Dalal said. According to him, residents delayed visiting the hospital for fear of contracting the coronavirus.
“People haven’t cared about their health for the past 22 months and now they’re coming in because they’re scared and things are getting worse.” said Dalal.
“People now have more serious health problems and they are more urgent. If this continues, we will not be able to take good care of the people who really need them. “ said Dalal.
In addition, non-urgent procedures are being postponed to address nursing staff shortages and c -acity issues, Dalal said.
“These things can be prevented by giving you the injection, being careful of what you eat, and checking with your family doctor carefully.” said Dalal. “We can clear these beds for those who need them badly.”
According to the CDC, the number of fully vaccinated Pennsylvanians is currently about 63%. Dalal said the rate of increase had slowed because those who wanted to receive the vaccine had already done so.
Dalal explained through several misunderstandings about the COVID-19 vaccines, which he said were mRNA vaccines. According to Dalal, mRNA vaccines are not new and are some of the safest vaccines out there.
“The technology is not new – so the first vaccine could be on the market after the first 11 months.” Dalal said in response to concerns that the vaccine was manufactured “too fast.”
Once injected, the vaccine gives instructions to human immune cells to fight COVID-19 and its variants, Dalal said, before quickly destroying it. After about two weeks there is nothing left of it.
“It trains your immune cells to fight the infection when they knock on your door.” said Dalal.
Additionally, the mRNA vaccine won’t be built into DNA and won’t affect fertility, Dalal said. Finally, Dalal called a conspiracy theory that the vaccine was made using aborted fetal cells a myth.
“The only way to stop this virus once and for all is through vaccines.” said Dalal.
“Be selfless” said Dalal. “If you think about your family and community members, you will accomplish a lot this holiday season.”
Dalal encouraged those unable to get the vaccine to hold virtual holiday meetings. Additionally, he said everyone should keep their distance from those who are not part of their immediate family and be careful about the spread of COVID-19 to those who are immunocompromised – even if they are vaccinated.
He also advised residents to raise their masks when in doubt and pull them down to eat and drink before they are powered up again.
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