‘A nuanced situation’: RI doctor says delta peak depends on several factors

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Infectious disease experts predict cases may continue to increase in the coming weeks before the delta surge hits its peak in about a month.

Dr. Eleftherios Mylonakis, who serves as chief of infectious diseases at The Miriam and Rhode Island hospitals, called it “a nuanced situation.”

“We have a couple of items that are unpredictable. The first one is obviously the virus,” Mylonakis said. “We are all at the mercy, in some way, of this virus, and we need to be very thoughtful.”

Mylonakis said those who have been ending up hospitalized with COVID-19 are mostly unvaccinated.

“Looking at the last 30 or 40 patients or even more, I would say that two out of three of the patients who are admitted have not received the vaccine,” Mylonakis said.

“This is remarkable because in our area, about 70% of the population has been vaccinated. So, this 30% of people who are not vaccinated contribute two out of three cases that come to the hospital,” he added.

Mylonakis said those getting hospitalized are, on average, in their late 40s and early 50s.

“But we have people who come here that are much younger, and this is quite concerning because it is very difficult to be a young person, be vaccinated, and end up in the hospital because of COVID,” he said.

Mylonakis said the remaining one-third who come to the hospital are those who have received the vaccine, but haven’t been able to sustain a good immune response.

“Those are the very older adults, average age in their late 70s and early 80s, and unfortunately the immunosuppressed population who is now asked to go and receive a booster,” he said.

The Biden administration is aiming to start delivering booster shots for most Americans in about two weeks, but since data is still being compiled for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, it’s possible only some Pfizer recipients will get those shots, at first.

“When are they going to become available, and what is the process of getting those boosters, and how quickly we’re going to deploy them?” Mylonakis asked.

Taking those things into consideration, Mylonakis said he expects cases to continue to rise in the next few weeks and peak about a month from now in the United States, but the timing of a possible decline in cases may hit a few more roadblocks.

“Of course we don’t know how the school reopening, the colleges reopening, how this is going to impact [cases], and how the social fatigue that we’re experiencing is going to also impact this situation,” Mylonakis said. “And then … it’s unknown what is going to happen afterwards.”

Mylonakis said while other countries have seen delta cases plummet, these factors, plus the different types of vaccines being used, may lead to a different outcome in the United States.

While the latest data from the R.I. Department of Health shows Rhode Island’s COVID-19 cases have been leveling off in recent weeks, the state is still seeing a high rate of new cases, as well as an increase in hospitalizations.

The Health Department reported an additional 334 positive cases on Friday, along with one additional COVID-19-related death.

The data shows 148 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized as of Friday, of which 18 are in the intensive care unit and 13 are on ventilators.

The Health Department also reported 755,528 are partially vaccinated and 688,725 are fully vaccinated.

Due to the holiday on Monday, Rhode Island’s COVID-19 data will next be updated on Tuesday.

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