The current surge in COVID-19 in southwest Pennsylvania appears to be due to a coronavirus strain that is less deadly than the original strain that struck the nation earlier this year, UPMC experts said Thursday.
“You may have heard the news that there is a dominant global burden – one that seems easier to transmit but less deadly. That is the burden we find and our data support these properties, ”said Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC medical director for infection prevention, on Thursday during a press conference.
Allegheny County has seen more than 2,000 new COVID-1
But the new cases mostly target a younger age group, Snyder said, noting that the average age of those who tested positive in Allegheny County is currently below 30.
“These cases are largely related to younger people who have been infected with the virus, be it while traveling or while socializing without masks or adequate social distance,” said Snyder.
As was observed in the spring, there was no corresponding increase in hospitalizations or patients who needed ventilators, Dr. Donald Yealy, UPMC Chair for Emergency Medicine.
“I think we can do it this way if we focus on protecting the frail, the elderly, and other vulnerable people,” Yealy said at the press conference.
Protecting the vulnerable requires the entire community to follow prevention guidelines, wear masks, stay at least a meter away from other people, and use good hand washing and hygiene practices, he said.
“That means we all do it all the time,” said Yealy.
The Conemaugh Health System has fewer hospitalizations despite the recent increase in new cases.
Both Conemaugh and UPMC said Friday their hospitals were safe and asked patients not to postpone healthcare for fear of COVID-19 infection.
“We are a large hospital, so the COVID-19 cases make up a small percentage of our daily focus,” said Conemaugh. “We continue to take all necessary precautions to ensure that our facilities are safe and clean in accordance with the guidelines (Centers for Disease Control and Infection and Department of Health of Pennsylvania).
“Patients shouldn’t worry about routine or urgent care and should never ignore or postpone emerging health needs. Conemaugh would like to assure our community that it is safe to come to our facilities if you or your family need care. Our team is ready to meet your health needs. “
“The delay in care is how small and small problems become big and big problems,” said Yealy.
“Those around you”
Snyder warned that the milder disease and a younger population should not be interpreted as less dangerous to the community.
“That doesn’t mean that young people don’t play a very, very important role in our communities,” said Snyder. “Yes, you are less likely to have a severe, undesirable result from the infection as someone older in our communities. It still means that you influence the people around you. “
He repeated the advice to wear masks indoors with others and in groups, and to keep a distance from others.
“All of this is really important, not only to protect yourself, but also to protect the people around you,” said Snyder.
Both UPMC doctors have attributed the Allegheny County Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to the imposition of measures that have flattened the curve.
Yealy declined to comment on Allegheny County’s decision to end indoor dining and on-site alcohol consumption, but said he supported measures targeting certain risk areas.
“I am impressed that we are trying to make things smarter and more effective,” he said. “I think we should all support that. I don’t think anyone wants to go back to broader shutdowns because this is a nuisance to all of us. “
Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @ PhotoGriffer57.