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UPMC officials: Virus with us for forseeable future

“We are responding to the realities that are happening right now,” Dr. Donald Yealy, M.D., UPMC senior medical director and chair of the department of emergency medicine, said in a press briefing. “We can protect people.”

Yealy, alongside Tami Minnier, UPMC chief quality officer, and Dr. Graham Snyder, M.D., UPMC medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology, updated locals on the severity of the ongoing COVID-19 virus and its many strands.

“The virus will be with us for the foreseeable future,” Yealy added. “We want to help you get better. Wear a mask in public always, wear it properly, stay home when you are sick and when you can. Wash your hands and stay extra vigilant.”

He continued by saying that though the state has recently seen an increase in positive cases, the severity of the disease itself has decreased and has been affecting the younger, healthier population more at this time.

“We are not seeing the same pattern of increase in severe cases,” Yealy said.

“These cases are largely linked to younger people who are socializing without proper distancing,” Snyder added. “We have a lot to learn. It may be more readily transmitted but less likely to be severe. That doesn’t change the fundamental precautions that we take.”

The three heavily encouraged the consistent use of universal masking outdoors, indoors, at local businesses, etc. as well as hand hygiene, social distancing, staying home as much as possible and remaining focused on the most vulnerable populations.

UPMC has been working to ramp up testing capabilities as well as contact tracing and research in the regions they serve in the state.

The healthcare system has opened up specific testing sites, testing on-site at nursing and long-term care facilities and drive through testing as well as testing asymptomatic patients before procedures.

“We developed our own testing,” Minnier said. “We expanded our specimen collection sites.”

UPMC is also continuing to stay on top of their research including different treatment types like steroids and remdesivir. They are still going through many clinical trials to learn the best information and keep up on trends and new discoveries including a possible link between the severity of the virus and blood types.

“We want to do it right,” Yealy said. “The Governor has created a lot of opportunity for healthcare to respond to the needs. We have done many trials and results will come soon.”

In terms of contact tracing, UPMC has been monitoring COVID-19 positive patients closely and as well as those they have come in contact with.

“It is important to listen to the guidance that you get from public health professionals,” Snyder said. “What is interesting about the virus is that it readily transmits even among asymptomatic people. It is possible that someone can have the virus and not know it.”

“We must stay especially focused to keep everyone safe,” Yealy said.

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