GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan doctors say President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 diagnosis shows the virus is still circulating and people should be aware of the risk.
News 8 spoke with doctors at three major hospital systems on Thursday to get an update on what they are seeing with the virus.
Dr. Russell Lampen, the medical director for infection prevention with Spectrum Health, said antivirals and vaccines that can prevent severe illness are providing more tools to keep hospitalizations low.
“Levels have remained relatively stable, around 50 patients in the hospital at any given time. It has trended up just a little bit in the last week and we know have about 65 patients in the hospital but we’re not seeing a huge surge like we did in the past,” Lampen said.
While Spectrum has seen a slight increase in hospitalization, the level of care needed is lower than what is previously needed.
“The number of ICU patients is significantly lower than what we’ve seen in previous surges, so previously about 25 to 30% of admitted patients ended up in the intensive care unit with the new Omicron variants what we’re seeing is only about 10%,” Lampen said.
Biden is being treated with Paxlovid, which Pfizer is working to expand production of through a $120 million investment in its Portage plant.
Dr. Andrew Jameson, the medical director of infection prevention with Trinity Health St. Mary’s, said they are also seeing an uptick in cases and antivirals can be an effective tool.
“The biggest key is getting it quickly. These are things that have to be started within five days of symptom onset,” Jameson said.
The BA.5 subvariant of Omicron is believed to be driving many of the recent cases.
“We went for a long stretch without anyone passing away from COVID but we’re seeing some of that happening again where people are dying from COVID,” Jameson said. “We’re having people that are getting reinfected a little bit quicker than they would otherwise as well, so if some people may have had a previous Omicron strain can get this one.”
The president was vaccinated and double boosted but doctors say the vaccines still make an impact.
Dr. Ronald Grifka, chief medical officer with University of Michigan Health West, said he recently recovered from the virus.
“A month after my second booster shot, I contracted COVID. I had a sore throat for 24 hours, no fever, no cough, no other symptoms whatsoever, so I think that second booster really is helpful,” Grifka said.
He says while COVID-19 continues to be a concern, they are hopeful the pandemic can continue to be more manageable.
“Between the number of people who have been vaccinated and boosted and/or have also developed the COVID infection, they probably have a good bit of immunity, so we’re hoping not to see much of surge this fall,” Grifka said.
Doctors also say an updated vaccine designed to treat the Omicron variant is also expected to make an impact when it becomes available.