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Doctor worries pandemic of ‘moral character’ spreading alongside omicron

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Daily Herald | Jan 27, 2022

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

Phlebotomist David Sagae gives directions to Luis Pereira, of Orem, after receiving his saliva test at a mobile COVID-19 testing site provided by Intermountain Healthcare at Orem Community Hospital on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020.

Until everyone starts to put the needs of others ahead of themselves, the COVID-19 pandemic will remain unchecked, an Intermountain Healthcare physician said during a news conference on Thursday.

“As long as we keep putting our own priorities ahead of those around us, we will continue to have this pandemic, not only of a virus, but I think a pandemic of personal moral character,” said Dr. Wing Province, chief medical officer and medical director at Intermountain Healthcare’s Park City Hospital.

Hospitalizations in Utah are the highest they’ve been since the beginning of the pandemic, with 843 reported from the Utah Department of Health, and nearly two-thirds of Utahns are still not fully vaccinated.

“I hear people say omicron is less severe and we don’t need to take it as seriously,” Province said. “But the reality is, just look at our hospitalizations. Worldwide, there have been more than 5.6 million deaths and 875,000 and counting here in the U.S. Compare that to 290,000 who died in World War II and 200,000 in the Civil War. Even all of the wars we’ve had since WWII, we haven’t seen as many deaths compared to the war we’re fighting with COVID-19. It’s a unique war because it’s preventable if every one of us would put aside our own needs and wear a mask and get vaccinated and boosted.”

Province said he is hearing more and more people say they wish the government, media and health care providers let it go because they’re getting tired of it.

“We’re tired of it too,” he said. “We would love to let go of it. We would love not going to work without worrying about this disease we could potentially be taking home to our families.”

Not only is omicron the dominant variant, but a subvariant has emerged and has been seen in 50 countries, including the U.S.

“It’s interesting how fast this virus can mutate,” Province said. “The subvariant is being investigated to see if it can be detected with tests and to see how deadly it might be. We just don’t have the answers yet.”

For now, Province said the best thing for the public to do is to wear a mask in public, get vaccinated and stay home if you’re sick. He said if you have symptoms that aren’t severe, stay home and isolate for five days. If you are feeling better after those five days but still test positive, he said to use your symptoms as an indicator of whether or not it’s safe to go back out in public.

Province also said he encourages everyone to get a pulse oximeter and have it at home to check oxygen levels. The device is placed on the index finger to measure the oxygen saturation of your blood.

“We have a lot of people come into the emergency department and pay a lot of money just to get tested,” he said. “If you start to have symptoms, check your oxygen levels. If they are less than 90%, come to the ER or call 911.”

He also said people should not come to the hospital or urgent care facilities demanding monoclonal antibody treatments. Only one antibody treatment works against omicron and because of a supply shortage, only those who are severely ill will receive them.

Province, who went to New York City to help during the height of the surge there, said he learned a lot of important lessons he encourages everyone to learn.

“The city is such a diverse place. I marvel at the way they put aside their cultural, religious and ethnic differences to band together to reduce the number of cases,” he said. “I know we can do it. I’m optimistic we can rally together and put the needs of others ahead of our own to get this pandemic under control.”

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