Syracuse, N.Y. – As the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to increase in Onondaga County, the same goes for the number of formerly ill people who continue their lives.
One in four Onondaga County residents who tested positive are now out of isolation. This is encouraging, said county health commissioner Dr Indu Gupta this week.
“We continue to have new cases, and at the same time people are recovering, which is a good sign,” said Gupta.
It is also planned. Almost all COVID-19 patients recover, most within two weeks; the county’s first confirmed case was March 16. About 80% of patients recover without entering the hospital, and an unknown number, called “asymptomatic”, are infected with the new coronavirus but never feel sick.
“We think we have had the virus for over a month in Syracuse, so we expect people to recover from the virus,” said Dr. Kathryn Anderson, professor of medicine and immunology at the Medical University. from Upstate. “This is a good thing.”
COVID-19 can be fatal, however, especially for people over the age of 65 who suffer from heart and lung disease. Three residents of Onondaga County died. The death rate in the United States is around 2%, according to figures compiled by the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scientists suspect it is probably much lower than that – about 1% or less – and it will become clearer as the tests develop and more mild cases are detected.
Onondaga County Director Ryan McMahon reported the number of positive cases in his daily briefings for almost three weeks, and added the “recovered” category on Sunday. Since then, 75 people have recovered, but more than double – 155 – have been confirmed to have the disease.
“We will always talk about positive cases,” said McMahon, “but we are also talking about recoveries.”
The first wave of healings was tempered this week by the county’s second and third deaths, and an increase in the number of intensive care patients – from seven to 14 in just two days.
Anderson said the rapid increase in the sickest cases and patients is regrettable but also expected.
“I think we are still in the exponential growth phase in our community,” she said. “It is difficult to say how quickly we will see the cases increase.”
When a patient is diagnosed with COVID-19, he is immediately placed in segregation at home and must remain as far away from others as possible. They are not allowed to share bedrooms, bathrooms or common areas with others, as directed by the CDC. In Onondaga County, they are monitored by the county health service through visits or via technology, including SMS and phone calls.
On Thursday afternoon, the health service monitored 224 people.
Gupta said patients are deemed recovered and released from isolation when they meet the following CDC criteria:
- No fever for 72 hours, in the absence of anti-fever drugs such as Tylenol
- Improvement of respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath
- It has been at least a week since the symptoms started.
Once patients get over the disease and get on with their lives, they probably won’t get sick with the virus again – at least not for a while, said Dr. Stephen Thomas, head of the infectious diseases unit at Upstate .
“We think if you are infected you will develop an immune response and the immune response will protect you for at least a certain period of time,” said Thomas in a Q&A on Syracuse.com this week. “We really don’t know how long a person can be protected.”
The isolation required after a positive diagnosis is different from quarantine, reserved for people who may have been exposed to the virus but who do not have symptoms. If a person has traveled to an infected area or has been in contact with an HIV-positive person, they can be placed in quarantine for 14 days. The CDC says that 99% of people develop symptoms within two weeks, so a quarantined person who does not get sick is assumed to be negative and is released.
The release of isolated patients could be a sign that the fight against the “tough virus” is working, said McMahon. He said the fight was far from over and urged central New York to stay at home.
“There are many things that can go wrong if the community does not respond well to social distress,” said McMahon. “If these things start to happen, and we really dive in and the next two to three weeks really starve us, I think we will be in good shape.”
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