Local health leaders explain how to measure severity of the current state of COVID-19

With COVID cases going in the wrong direction, do we need to change how we measure the severity...
With COVID cases going in the wrong direction, do we need to change how we measure the severity of the pandemic? No necessarily according to local health experts.(WBRC)
Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 10:47 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - With COVID cases going in the wrong direction, do we need to change how we measure the severity of the pandemic? Not necessarily, according to local health experts.

“It’s boiling over right now,” Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious disease expert at UAB said.

That’s the current state of COVID in Alabama according to Dr. Saag. Both cases and hospitalizations are heading in the wrong direction, but which one of those should we focus on right now? Dr. Saag says all the metrics being used to follow the progression of the virus are valuable.

“Following the number of cases tells us how hot this epidemic is in the community and its scolding hot right now,” Saag said.

Saag believes we could be underestimating the number of cases due to a lot of people doing at-home COVID tests. Saag and other health experts say the hospitalizations tell us how many people are getting really sick.

“It tells us how far from the cliff we are and that means how soon we’re going to go off that cliff and really hit catastrophe,” Dr. David Kimberlin, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s of Alabama said.

Kimberlin says slowing down the case count is important as well.

“If you can slow down that car going to the cliff, you’re going to keep yourself from getting close to the cliff in the first place,” Kimberlin said.

While Omicron may be less severe than previous strains, the World Health Organization says it’s not mild. Saag says he’ll be closely watching to see if the rising case counts match up with hospitalizations.

“With the large number of people infected then you’re going to see, even if it’s just proportionally fewer that go in the hospital. With a larger base number that still can translate into a lot of hospitalizations. So I’m watching that to make sure our hospital systems don’t get overwhelmed,” Saag said.

Doctors can’t stress it enough...the best defense against COVID-19 is getting vaccinated and boosted and taking all the precautions they’ve been preaching for almost two years now.

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