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UPMC officials talk changes surrounding COVID-19

“The masks absolutely matter,” Donald Yealy, UPMC chair of emergency medicine and senior medical director, said. “(COVID-19) is not going away. We are learning while we have delivered care and we have learned fast. Death rates are far lower now than they were earlier on in the pandemic…it isn’t a victory declaration though.”

Yealy alongside Derek Angus, UPMC chief health care innovation officer and Oscar Marroquin, UPMC chief health care data and analytics officer, all spoke on behalf of UPMC’s data about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and how its affect has been changing as well as updates on vaccines in a press briefing Thursday.

The virus is ever-changing, as are many of the protocols, precautions and mitigation measures to keep safety in check in the community.

UPMC’s data continues to show that though testing capabilities continue to increase, hospital discharges are also increasing and the mortality rates are much lower according to Marroquin and Angus.

According to Yealy and his colleagues, this virus, though much less severe, continues to attack its most vulnerable hosts–the elderly and the compromised.

“That doesn’t mean we can go back to normal,” Yealy said. “We can’t predict what the future of this virus holds.”

He added that the key to mitigating the spread of the virus, is in fact the protocols that continue to be heard across the nation, “wear a mask, social distance and stay home if you are feeling ill”.

“The virus does not discriminate,” Marroquin said. “It can affect other organs than just the lungs.”

In terms of treatments, UPMC continues to be involved in vaccination trials, are currently a part of three different “vaccine approaches” with the University of Pittsburgh and are participating in the Moderna vaccine trial.

“We want a safe vaccine,” Yealy said. “It won’t likely be the singular action, not everyone amounts to a good response to a vaccination.”

The timeline on a vaccination is still unknown.

“Remdesivir has seen a slightly rockier road,” Angus said. “It cut the speed in which people were recovering but there was no significant reduction in mortality.”

He also said that the drug is also expensive.

Corticosteroids like cortisone and dexamethasone have seen benefit though.

“We are trying to learn from every patient,” Angus said.

“We thank our dedicated staff and more importantly the communities we serve,” Yealy said.

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