RI Hospital doc says ER seeing uptick in COVID-19 patients, most unvaccinated

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Rhode Island, we’re hearing from the head of the emergency department at Rhode Island Hospital on what he’s seeing.

Dr. Jay Schuur, Chief of Emergency Medicine for Lifespan, said his emergency department at Rhode Island Hospital is busy right now. With life getting back to normal, he said more people are coming in with trauma and typical emergency needs like strokes and heart attacks.

But, he said, the hospital is seeing more and more COVID-19 patients as the weeks go on.

“We’re seeing an uptick in cases of COVID, not nearly the level we saw over the winter, but not what we wanted to see when we saw vaccinations spread and everything goes back down, you know, in the late winter and spring,” he said. “The good news is that amongst vaccinated patients, we’re not seeing significant cases of patients who are sick, requiring hospitalization, at the same time we know that this Delta variant is more transmissible than the original variant.”

While hospitalizations are stable, Dr. Schuur fears a surge as cases continue to climb.

“We’re seeing a rapid rise in cases from very few cases in the state to…that’s accelerated, and that has us worried because we know hospitalizations and patients with very severe COVID lag by a couple of weeks from when we start seeing rises in cases.”

“It’s challenging. I think those of us in healthcare work really hard and we saw the vaccine as a way out of this and initially we saw this great drop in cases, and while we always expected there to be a little bit of COVID, we really are hoping we don’t face another surge.”

Rhode Island is currently in a high transmission zone. The state is at a 3% positivity rate this week, up from 1.8% this week, and new cases per 100,000 people have almost doubled from last week.

Dr. Schuur said most of the COVID-19 patients he’s seeing are unvaccinated.

“I’m concerned. I think we have a good head start because Rhode Island’s done a good job at getting many people vaccinated. Sadly, there are still a large number of people that are unvaccinated and they’re at significant risk.”

He’s keeping a close eye on other states that are seeing a surge but doesn’t think Rhode Island will get there just yet.

“We’re looking at Florida and Louisiana and places that have very low vaccination rates and our friends there are getting overwhelmed. I don’t think that’s gonna happen in Rhode Island because we have a high vaccination rate, but we really don’t want anyone who can avoid it to get sick from COVID. We actually have an effective treatment, it’s the vaccine, and we’re hoping that people will get that and not come into the hospital.”

When it comes to bringing back the masks, he said it’s difficult for state leaders to make policy changes when the situation is changing so rapidly. He said he thinks people should consider re-masking in certain situations.

“Personally, I think it makes sense at this point to consider wearing a mask if you’re in an enclosed space with many people you don’t know, cause we know how infectious this virus is.”

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Categories: News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island