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Hospitals To Public: Get Your Flu Shot

WAMC News Director Ian Pickus got his flu shot on Wednesday
Lucas Willard
WAMC News Director Ian Pickus got his flu shot on Wednesday

Capital Region hospitals are teaming up as the region prepares for a second wave of COVID-19 in the colder months. As WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports, local hospitals are asking the public to do their part too.

To date, 662,000 tests for COVID-19 have been administered in the Capital Region. About 9,500 have come back positive. After a quieter summer, positive cases are on the rise.

But hospital officials feel that they’re better prepared for a second wave.

Dr. Dennis McKenna, President and CEO and Albany Medical Center, says compared to beginning of the pandemic, it’s kind of hard to imagine what life was like before the advances the medical community has made in prevention, testing, and treatment for COVID-19.

Hospitals in the Capital Region say they no longer face the same shortages of PPE or COVID-19 testing kits, people are wearing masks and social distancing, and healthcare providers have a better understanding of how to treat patients.

McKenna spoke during a press conference Wednesday that also included leaders from Ellis Medicine, Glens Falls Hospital, Saratoga Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital, and St. Peter’s Health Partners.

“Critical care doctors and respiratory therapists are using techniques on the ventilators are new. Remdesivir, which is a drug which is used as an anti-viral agent, has now been approved by the FDA. Convalescent plasma is something that we weren’t doing but now we’re doing on a regular basis – in point, in fact on this campus alone we’ve used that in over 120 patients,” said McKenna.

Also on the way: wider use of the “antibody cocktail” drugs like the Regeneron treatment used when President Trump contracted the virus, and the development and distribution of an effective vaccine.

But with COVID-19 back on the rise as the weather gets colder, there’s one thing that health professionals recommend people to do reduce strain on hospitals.

“One, two, three…”

The flu shot — that’s the sound of WAMC’s flu clinic Wednesday afternoon.

Influenza has similar symptoms as COVID-19, and the equipment needed to treat patients with the flu is also used with COVID patients.

Dr. David Liebers is an infectious disease specialist and Chief Medical Officer at Ellis Medicine.

“In particular, Personal Protect Equipment, ICU beds, ICU staff, ventilators. In addition, influenza can be readily transmitted if we’re not care and vigilant within the walls of the hospital,” said Liebers.

Many hospitals are requiring all staff to get their flu shot – for the Capital Region, that means 35,000 people will likely be inoculated.

But it’s up to the public to help, says Dr. Howard Fritz, Chief Medical Officer at Glens Falls Hospital.

“I wish to emphasize the team efforts that have occurred between the hospitals, within the hospitals within our communities. And I would like to emphasize again that we rely on you to be our partners outside of the hospitals to do our best,” said Fritz.

To reduce strain on hospitals, the public can continue adhering to social distancing guidelines, wearing face masks in public, practicing good hygiene like handwashing, and getting the flu shot.

Dr. McKenna said the hospitals’ goal today is the same as it was at the height of the pandemic in New York in April – and wanted to send a message of resilience, not COVID fatigue.

But with concern over COVID, McKenna also asked the public not to put off regular care too.

“I’ve often used the term that there is another pandemic, and it’s the pandemic of the undiagnosed and the untreated. And we have to be certain that as we enter into the fall and winter seasons, if we see an increase in COVID cases, that we are vigilant and we do not abandon those missions,” said McKenna.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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