The University of Kansas Health System reports an increase in all the numbers of COVID patients today and one death from the virus yesterday. 37 patients with the active virus are being treated, up from 34 yesterday. 17 of those patients are in the ICU, up from 16 yesterday. Ten patients are on ventilators, up from nine yesterday. 23 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, up from 22 yesterday. That’s a total of 60 patients, up from 56 yesterday. HaysMed is up to five patients from two yesterday.
On today’s Morning Medical Update, compelling testimony from a COVID survivor still struggling with long haul symptoms more than a year after testing positive. She shared how it’s divided her family and the difficulties she's faced physically, emotionally, and socially. We also shared the top symptoms we're seeing in our long COVID clinic.
Before discussing today’s topic, doctors noted that the FDA has asked for more patients five to 12-years-old to be enrolled in the Pfizer and Moderna trials. They agree it’s all about the agency being transparent and wanting to be sure the rare cases of myocarditis and other side effects are nothing to worry about. They also pointed out how much more transmissible the Delta variant is than the original Wuhan strain. One person can spread it to five or six people compared to two or three from the original strain. The problem is because it spreads more easily, it takes less time to infect someone else.
Heather is a nurse from an area hospital who believes she caught COVID in March of 2020 while working at a screening station before mask mandates started. About a week after working the station she developed shortness of breath, then chills for eight days with a low-grade fever. Then she would develop a very high heart rate while just making a sandwich for her kids. She’s had about a dozen other symptom in the past year, including black circles under her eyes and poor circulation in her hands. Before COVID she was “a very healthy fitness-obsessed mother of two young kids.” She used to be able to run 5K’s but now even taking a walk makes her heart race. As a patient of the long haul clinic at The University of Kansas Health System, she’s seen a pulmonologist for breathing, a cardiologist for her heart, a rheumatologist for her circulation and a hematologist for a low white blood count. She says what’s worse, her four-year-old daughter caught the virus and now has many of the same symptoms. Heather has received the COVID vaccine and says it’s greatly improved her shortness of breath and high heart rate. She admits having family and friends who, despite seeing what COVID has done to her and her daughter, still refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated. She says, “It’s been hard on relationships in the last year.” She believes they can’t see it from her point of view because they have not had to experience it, and hopes they never have to. She adds, “I wouldn’t wish this on anybody, but’s it’s been very difficult for us to feel safe around our own closest family.”
Dr. Brandon Comfort sees patients in the long haul clinic. He says Heather’s story is a common one, and reports about ten percent of all COVID patients have some long haul symptoms affecting multiple systems of their bodies. Some need just one or two specialists but many, like Heather, need more. He says the three most common symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath and brain fog. He has not seen any long haul patients who have been vaccinated and anticipates more patients will be seeking help in the clinic due to the Delta variant. He says while there is no official data to explain it, he has noticed patients, such as Heather, whose symptoms have improved after taking the vaccine. The good news, he adds, is almost everybody seems to be getting better over time, though it’s exceedingly slow and hard for patients who spend months being treated. He believes it will be a small percent of people who end up with chronic symptoms beyond a couple of years or more.
Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System, calls COVID a behavioral disease and without mask mandates and limited vaccination it’s only going to get worse. He believes some people are very thoughtful about deciding on the vaccine, but tend to believe what he calls the misinformation campaigns that spread rumors, such as it causes infertility. He says they are otherwise smart people who want to do the right thing but just don’t know yet. Then, he says, there is another subpopulation who believe the whole thing is a hoax and no amount of logic or reasoning will convince them otherwise. He also says even with the Delta variant, the primary way of spreading is through respiratory droplets and not touching inanimate objects.
Steve Stites, MD, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health System, says Heather’s story should be a wakeup call for those who are not taking the pandemic seriously. He says it’s a tragedy that young unvaccinated people are dying every day from this disease which is entirely preventable. He asks, “Is a mask really that awful?” He asks those with conflicting views on the pandemic, “What are we mad at? Are we really mad at each other? Does that really make sense, or should we be mad at the darn virus? What’s the point of being mad at each other? None of us want this. None of us like it. So, isn’t the real point to beat the virus instead of beating up on each other? What will save your life are two very simple acts. Put on a mask and get yourself vaccinated.”
Wednesday, July 27 at 8:00 a.m. is Open Mics With Dr. Stites. We answer your COVID questions and also reflect on rural healthcare in a time of COVID.
NOTE: Journalists should rejoin the Morning Medical Update at 8am as doctors are growing too busy again for individual interview requests. Please bring questions or send to firstname.lastname@example.org until further notice. Thanks for all you do and helping to keep the community safe with your reporting.
ATTENTION: media procedure for calling in:
The meeting is available by Zoom, both video and by phone. To join the Zoom Meeting by video, click https://kumc-ois.zoom.us/j/7828978628
Telephone dial-in Participants: For those without Zoom, call 1-312-626-6799, meeting ID: 782 897 8628.
The feed is also available via TVU grid. The TVU source is UoK_Health and is being made available to all.