Community Town Hall Addresses COVID-19 Questions and Concerns

Community Town Hall Addresses COVID-19 Questions and Concerns
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Last night the DuPage County Health Equity and Access Response Team (HEART) hosted “Testing Positive with COVID-19: Now What?” The virtual community town hall featured infectious disease specialist Dr. Jonathan Pinsky from Edward Hospital.

Highest Numbers Due to Omicron

Pinsky talked about how Edward-Elmhurst Health is seeing the highest number of patients, including hospitalizations, since the start of the pandemic. “The week of December 26 we counted 4,000 patients in our system testing positive,” said Pinsky. “And this was higher than the peak last fall which was 2,000. It was double the peak.”

Edward Hospital is currently treating 122 inpatients with confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. 68 are not vaccinated, 35 are, and two are partially vaccinated. Data is not yet available for the rest of the patients. Pinksy said those with a booster are 70-75% protected from Omicron. “Serum from people who are vaccinated and boosted actually can neutralize the [Omicron] variant a lot better than just two doses,” said Pinsky.

While most of those who are vaccinated or getting re-infected with COVID are experiencing mild symptoms, “since the Omicron variant is so much more transmissible and there’s a lot more cases, then we actually have a lot more people that do have severe infections and we’re seeing this in the hospitalization numbers,” said Pinsky. “The hospitalizations are up, the severity of infections are up. I can tell you our ICU is full now and these are Omicron patients.”

From those admitted in January, over 40% are vaccinated. The hospital is seeing vaccinated patients that are older at the average age of 71, but less often admitted with pneumonia and requiring oxygen. Those admitted that are unvaccinated are 57 years old on average and do require oxygen.

Testing Positive and Negative?

One question that came up is what kind of test to get and what should someone do if they receive a positive antigen test and a negative PCR that they took on the same day. “If you want to quickly know if you’re infectious, the antigen test is better. The antigen tests tend to tell you if you’re actively infected because they pick up the viral proteins. So if I had a choice I would rather get the rapid antigen test to know right away than wait around for a PCR,” said Pinsky. “If you have a positive antigen test, it’s not as accurate as a PCR but at this level of infection that we’re having now, the chances of a false positive are actually very, very low.”

If you’re experiencing symptoms, Pinsky recommends speaking with your primary care physician. Those who don’t have a doctor or insurance can check their temperatures at home and use a pulse oximeter to check oxygen saturation. The DuPage Health Coalition is also available for assistance at 630-510-8720. Pinsky also talked about current treatments being used for admitted high risk patients including monoclonal antibodies, Remdesivir, and Paxlovid.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.