With the end of summer upon us, the COVID group met Wednesday to evaluate where matters currently stand regarding the pandemic and discuss what we can expect this fall. Systemwide, we began August with 51 hospitalized COVID patients, which grew to 142 on August 26 and was down to 128 this morning.
Dr. Rick Martinello shared slides reviewing the COVID situation locally, regionally, and nationally; you can see his presentation here. Below you will find a summary of key points, along with a few other news items relevant to the practice.
Delta Predominates; Peak May Occur Mid-September
- Across the country, the Delta variant now accounts for 99% of cases. This is true here in Connecticut, as well, where the Delta variant accounts for 392 of the 394 COVID isolates analyzed between 8/12/21 and 8/21/21. The remaining two cases are the Gamma variant, first identified in Brazil.
- The number of hospitalized breakthrough cases has continued to rise since the first ones were identified in March and, throughout the YNHH inpatient census, currently hovers in the 25-30% range. “This is not a reflection of the efficacy of the vaccine but rather is due to our state’s high percentage of vaccinated residents,” says Dr. Martinello, noting that data show that risk of hospitalization is nearly 17-fold greater for unvaccinated individuals. The demographics of hospitalized breakthrough cases show a preponderance of older people (especially nursing home residents), with obesity also a contributor.
- CDC data models predict that the current wave of infections will peak mid-September and then begin to decline. “This is optimistic, however,” says Dr. Martinello. “The data is only as good as the inputs and the wild card is what will happen in schools this month, so we will all be watching for updates of this forecasting.”
New PPE Policy: Protective Eyewear
A change in PPE policy now mandates the use of protective eyewear for all patient encounters; there is sufficient supply on hand, so obtaining the equipment should not be a problem.
Booster Shots Available at Retail Pharmacies
Following the CDC’s recent recommendation for third doses of vaccine for people with moderate or severe immune compromising conditions, discussions continue about when and if a booster recommendation will be made for other populations, including health care workers, people at higher risk for exposure and the general population. Dr. Martinello anticipates ongoing review and possibly a new recommendation mid-September.
Meanwhile, however, third doses of the mRNA vaccines are currently available for select populations through YNHH, Yale Health, and at retail pharmacies. Dr. Brita Roy notes that vaccines administered at retail pharmacies are reported to the state registry and are now incorporated into Epic. Given that there will likely be a surge in demand when the recommendations are expanded to include boosters for all populations, “we see no reason why our faculty, trainees, and staff should not get the vaccine at retail pharmacies, if that is the most convenient option for them,” Dr. Roy said.
Nicole Wise Named Chief Communications Officer for Yale Medicine
I’d also like to take this opportunity to share the news that Nicole Wise, who has been Executive Editor and Director of Content Strategy and Marketing, has been promoted to the position of Chief Communications Officer, reporting to Mary Hu, YSM Associate Dean of Communications.
Since Nicole joined Yale Medicine in 2016, she has built an outstanding communications team that encompasses writers, editors, videographers, digital marketing, and media relations. The website now draws millions of visitors each month. More than 100,000 individuals view Yale Medicine videos monthly, and our digital ad campaigns generate more than 50,000 clicks each month. Additionally, an expanded media outreach initiative puts our brand and the expertise of Yale Medicine physicians in front of many millions of readers and viewers each month as well. Please join me in congratulating Nicole on her new role.
Paul Taheri, MD, MBA
Deputy Dean for Clinical Affairs, YSM
CEO, Yale Medicine