As COVID-19 continues to spread in Utah and throughout the U.S., Brandon Webb, MD, an infectious diseases specialist with Intermountain Healthcare, shares an update about the current state of the pandemic.
We’re watching the numbers and clearly and we’re still seeing a rise in cases. There’s some favorable news in some of the areas that were hit hardest and earliest. We’re seeing some signs of flattening or peaking and that’s encouraging. There’s been a tremendous effort to expand testing availability and we’re reassured by the number of tests that are being conducted. There’s also been a lot of effort invested in developing and studying new treatments, which is encouraging as well. Lastly, I think we’ve been pleased to see communities embrace social distancing, and while we could definitely do better, we’re grateful people are coming together in that way.
Right now in Utah, we’re testing thousands of people a day. Our labs are testing at the top of their capacity and we’re pleased about that. Of all the tests that are being done, 5% come back positive and of those 5%, only 8% are severe enough to require care inside the hospital. More than 90% of our positive cases right now have symptoms that are treatable outside the hospital.
Our hope is that as we continue to expand the availability of testing, everyone who has risk factors for severe disease should be able to be tested. The testing criteria have continued to expand as our testing capacity has expanded. Not only are we testing those who have traveled to hotspots in the U.S., but we’re testing those who are at risk for severe disease because of age, chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, healthcare workers, and people with weakened immune systems. We’re not able to expand testing more broadly to people in the community who don’t fit all those categories, but whose symptoms do match the COVID-19 syndrome.
There's been a lot in the news about medications that may help with COVID-19. A number of medications hold promise but remain unproven. The most important way to identify whether these drugs actually work is in the context of clinical trials. There's been a tremendous effort both in our state and nationwide to set up clinical trials that not only provide access to these medications, but also do it in a way that ensures monitoring and safety.
We have no data right now that suggests pregnancy is a risk factor for either acquiring the disease or for having a more severe case of the disease. Care for mom and baby is a top priority and because of that, pregnant women are high priority for testing, but not necessarily because you're more likely to get it or to have severe disease if you're pregnant.
No, it's actually not recommended. The reason is that masks serve as a deterrent to touching your face, but they don't necessarily block your ability to inhale virus particles if you were close to someone who coughed. If you’re sick and have symptoms of COVID-19, you should wear a mask to help protect other people.