Preventive Care

COVID Update: A New Approach for a Different Disease

Dr. Scott Levy, vice president and chief medical officer | Doylestown Health

Considering COVID-19 has evolved over the past 30 months and so have the medical recommendations, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with Dr. Scott Levy, vice president and chief medical officer of Doylestown Health, to get his take on COVID and current vaccines.

“The virus that is now causing COVID infections is a variation of the original strain, but the symptoms are generally less severe and less likely to result in hospitalization or death. In many cases, people are experiencing mild symptoms such as a scratchy throat, fatigue, and low exercise tolerance," says Dr. Levy. "The risk of infection is still there, but the risk of serious illness is less. We have not had a death from COVID at Doylestown Hospital in many months. Patients we see now are in the hospital due to another medical condition, but they also have COVID.” 

“Many people have had this new variant, but also have a level of protection resulting from the vaccine and prior infection(s),” he says. “If the original strain and the Delta variant had similar symptoms and a profile such as we are seeing today, we would have never needed to take all of the precautions we did,” says Dr. Levy.

New Tactics

"As we move to the point where this is one of the diseases that we routinely treat, we want to continue to be aware of public health measures," says Dr. Levy. “We want to do everything we can to suppress the number of people who get sick to blunt the impact of this disease in society.”

Boosters Are Important

Getting a booster remains important for individuals and for the population, explains Dr. Levy. The vaccines have helped to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, but experts have noted that protection wanes over time. The new, bivalent boosters can restore protection you may have lost and protect against the new Omicron variants as well. Anyone over the age of five who has been completely vaccinated and has not had a booster in the last 90 days, or COVID for the last 90 days, is a candidate.

“I’ve been asked whether there is any benefit of one brand versus the other booster (Moderna and Pfizer). There is no data suggesting any preference, nor should you specifically get the shot you got before or conversely cross over to another brand. We have excellent vaccines formulated by reputable companies manufacturing different vaccines that work the same way and they are equally effective as far as what we know now.” 

Flu in Our Future

Over the past two and a half years, there were few cases of people presenting with COVID and flu at the same time because people were staying home, isolating, and masking. The evidence suggests we are heading into a serious flu season, according to Dr. Levy. In the United States, we base our flu vaccines on variants found in the southern hemisphere where they are six months ahead in the cycle. This includes Australia where the flu hit hard this year.

“Given that there is nothing to suggest that COVID will disappear, statistically we’re likely to see a number of people who have both COVID and flu at the same time,” says Dr. Levy.

Protect Yourself

“The fact that we have not had a robust flu season for a couple of years means we will not have the level of natural immunity we have had in years past. That’s why it is even more important to get a flu shot, which is about 40 – 60% effective,” says Dr. Levy. “It is reasonable and safe to get both vaccines (flu shot and COVID booster) at the same time.”

About Masking

At Doylestown Health, we are not requiring masks to walk the hallways in non-clinical areas because the COVID we are dealing with now is not as serious of a disease. For those who choose to wear a mask, or those who are infected with COVID, Dr. Levy says wearing a surgical mask is good, but the best way to protect yourself and others is by wearing a well-fitting KN95 or N95 mask. Cloth masks are not effective.

“If you are actively infected, you have an ethical responsibility to stay away from people and isolate as much as possible for five days and to wear a mask when around others for an additional five days,” says Dr. Levy. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations say you can be out in public without a mask after 10 days, but there is a subset of people who will shed the virus for 10-12 days. Those people are still putting others at risk, so keep that in mind with your behaviors.”

Learn more

More information is available on our COVID Resource Page and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About Doylestown Health

Doylestown Health is a comprehensive healthcare system of inpatient, outpatient and wellness education services connected to meet the health needs of all members of the local and regional community. Doylestown Hospital, the flagship to Doylestown Health has 247 beds and a Medical Staff of more than 435 physicians in over 50 specialties. An independent nonprofit health system, Doylestown Health is dedicated to providing innovative, patient-centered care for all ages.

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