By Callie Hietala
As the post-holiday COVID caseload continues to surge, data indicates that the spike of the peak is still 2-3 weeks away.
“It’s already worse than (the numbers from) a year ago,” said Dr. Sheranda-Gunn Nolan, chief medical officer at Sovah Health.
The post-holiday surge has led to testing resources becoming more and more limited, meaning people often must wait longer to get a test. She noted the local health departments can help locate testing sites for those in need of testing, and that there are reasonable and valid at-home testing kits that provide early information, particularly symptoms are present.
Nolan cautioned that hospitals are continuing to reserve COVID-19 tests for critically ill patients. “Coming to the hospital won’t get you a test quicker,” she said.
However, Gunn-Nolan said she was reassured by a recent phone call with state officials that testing resources should improve as early as next week.
In the meantime, she cautioned people to stay home if they are feeling unwell.
“If you can’t get tested, treat it like it’s COVID,” she said, of self-quarantining and scheduling a test as early as possible.
In terms of quarantine, Nolan said many in the medical community were surprised at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) recent recommendation of a 5-day quarantine for COVID-positive patients.
“It’s important for people to know that the varying degrees of quarantine are dependent on what you do,” she said. Healthcare providers, for example, may be asked to quarantine longer since they are in contact with so many people, many of whom are more medically vulnerable.
“Personally,” she said, “I would follow a 7-to-10-day quarantine. Omicron tends to pass a little bit faster, but there’s still a lot we have to learn.”
Nolan said that there are fewer than 50 patients hospitalized with the virus across both Martinsville and Danville campuses, and that hospitals continue to see unvaccinated patients that are much sicker.
She said recent data from the CDC indicated 95 percent of new cases of COVID-19 across the United States are the omicron variant. Data from the Virginia Department of Health showed that among fully vaccinated Virginians, 1.5 percent have developed COVID, 0.045 percent have been hospitalized with the virus, and 0.01 percent have died.
However, there is hope on the horizon, though it may be distant.
Nolan said research continues to look at other means that may be more appealing to those who feel they cannot take the vaccine and for those in countries where vaccines are not readily available. These studies being conducted into medications to prevent COVID infections as well as medications to minimize the risk of the virus.
“Now is not the time to let down your guard,” Nolan cautioned, emphasizing that masking, good hand hygiene, social distancing, and, of course, vaccinations remain important to fighting the pandemic.