Chief physician: 1 in 500 Americans has now died of COVID-19

Misinformation, vaccine hesitancy leading to new surge, Sanford doctor warns

Sanford Health care workers in PPE examine a patient on the COVID-19 hospital unit.

According to the latest Sanford Health data, roughly 95% of people in the hospital with COVID-19 right now are unvaccinated and eligible to receive the vaccine.

The delta variant is driving a majority of that because it’s better at infecting people.

Before, with the first variant of COVID-19, one infected person could infect two to three other people. Now with delta, one infected person could infect eight other people.

“There are very few viruses that good at spreading,” said Chief Physician Jeremy Cauwels, M.D. “The virus got better at doing its job and therefore is much better at spreading and spreading faster than the previous version.”

So much so, the national death toll is climbing with positive case numbers.

“One in 500 Americans has now died of COVID,” said Dr. Cauwels. “That’s a sobering statistic particularly when it could have been prevented with a mask or vaccine — or both.”

Watch: Dr. Cauwels joined Sanford Health News for a Facebook Live Q&A, Aug. 23, 2021

The U.S. Surgeon General came out with a report on the plague of medical misinformation, calling it a “public health crisis.”

“When I want to get information about COVID, I ask a vaccine expert in a major medical center or those who study infectious diseases in my hospital,” Dr. Cauwels said. “I won’t ask my auto mechanic about my knee pain or my bone doctor about my car.”

Long-term side effects, fertility

Dr. Cauwels said the good news about most vaccines — including the COVID-19 vaccine — is the low risk for any side effects. This includes effects on fertility.

“There has been no evidence whatsoever for increased fertility problems, for increased miscarriage, or for difficulty with getting pregnant.”

According to the latest data, the most dangerous time in any woman’s life to get COVID-19 is during her third trimester of pregnancy.

Read: Baby born at Sanford Health with COVID antibodies

“The virus can cause you to deliver your baby pre-term, it can cause complications and can harm you as well as your baby,” Dr. Cauwels added. “Getting the vaccine during that time can help protect you and your baby because the antibodies you make will cross the placenta and protect your baby from COVID after delivery as well.”

Supporting health care workers

The pandemic has continuously taken a heavy toll on those who provide direct patient care.

“The most important way you can support our health care workers is by doing what you can to not become one of their patients,” Dr. Cauwels said. “They are tired but they are doing exactly what they are trained to do: they work hard and take care of the sickest people.”

As a Sanford Health medical leader, Dr. Cauwels encourages everyone to not make their job harder on the front line and do the things we can to prevent them from being overwhelmed.

“If that means you go out today and get the shot, we have clinics all over the Sanford Health footprint that are willing to give you a shot today.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Immunizations

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