Gamble: COVID Not Straining Hospital Resources
WHEELING — While the actual number of reported COVID cases is difficult to ascertain due to the prevalence of home tests, local health resources aren’t being strained as they had been in months past.
Wheeling-Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble said he hopes the area is at the top of a spike amid a recent rise in COVID cases. With many cases being detected through home test kits — which are valuable for alerting residents that they should take steps to prevent spread, but are not counted among reported cases by the state — Gamble said the county is tracking cases through indirect metrics such as detection of the virus in sewage and hospitalizations.
In those regards, Gamble said, Ohio County is faring well.
“The good news is the hospitals don’t seem to be as impacted as we were several months ago when we had elevated cases,” Gamble said. “That could be due to (people) getting vaccinated, when infected, our reactions to the virus are lower, we don’t need hospitalization or immediate care — but that’s not to say we don’t still have them. We still get death reports. Some of those are historic, but … people are still getting sick, people are still having health issues and, yes, we still have deaths.”
Gamble attributed the relative ease at the hospital to a number of possible factors, including wider access to COVID treatments and greater prevalence of COVID vaccination, which generally lessens symptoms even for breakthrough cases. While hospitals may be busy, Gamble said, they’re seeing more traffic for non-COVID reasons compared to over the last two years.
“It may be the result of vaccination or the virus itself, but we aren’t getting the reports of hospitals opening up COVID units,” he continued. “Hands down, hospitals are busy, but a lot of that is due to other issues going around, whether that’s other viruses or conditions, scheduled services, and so on. But the good news, the hospitals aren’t impacted as hard from this little spike we’re seeing as they were three months ago.”
Gamble said the health department has heard from many in the community calling to self-report having COVID as the result of an at-home test.
“We are seeing a slight increase; we hope that this is the top of a spike, and we have to come down from it,” he said. “We are seeing a growth of cases, but a lot of this is anecdotal, or they’re calling because they need to know what to do next. … It is good that the hospitals are able to continue and not have the burden of seeing a lot of people as a result of this spike, but the most difficult part, from public health, is that we don’t get all the data like we used to.”
With the current increase in cases, Gamble said, it falls on the public to act correctly if they’ve discovered they’re COVID positive due to an at-home test. The first and most critical way to mitigate the spread of COVID is to get vaccinated, Gamble said, and to get tested if symptoms develop.
Those who remain unvaccinated and are exposed to COVID, in particular, should quarantine.
“Act appropriately. If you are positive, quarantine. It’s a simple quarantine – five days, monitor symptoms, report to a family physician if you want to start an antibody treatment,” he said. “If you are not vaccinated and exposed, you need to quarantine. We don’t want that person thinking, ‘It’s been two years and I’m done with this, I’m okay I’ve been exposed, I’m going back to work,’ and lo and behold, you begin symptoms and we begin the trend all over again with another group being infected.
“This increase we’ve seen, … we’re a whole lot more open. We’re going to do things, traveling, doing events, seeing family. We’re not locked up, not limiting our movements like we were in the last two years, so it’s going to be easier for the virus to find a new host.”