Right now, Bridgeport Hospital is caring for 30 COVID patients.
That’s down drastically from the height of the pandemic, when they filled 300 beds.
Most of us no longer wear masks. We’ve stopped social distancing; we gather once again in large groups, and greet relatives and friends with hugs and kisses.
But we would be foolish to let our guards down too much and too fast, says Zane Saul.
He should know. The 32-year resident of Westport and Weston is Bridgeport Hospital’s chief of infectious diseases.
He was on the front lines, when the coronavirus roared across the globe. He remembers those early days of terror, confusion, and the all-hands-on-deck, throw-whatever-we’ve-got-at-it approach that was all he and his colleagues could do for nearly a year, until vaccines were developed, produced and shipped.
Now, he says, most people in this area have been vaccinated. That, along with monoclonal antibodies, means that although people still contract COVID, they’re not as sick as before.
They’re not intubated as often. They’re not dying as much.
Dr. Saul says a very obese, unvaccinated woman was admitted this fall to Bridgeport Hospital. She spent several weeks on a respirator.
But she made it. Two years ago, she would not have.
Now, the weather is turning cold. People spend more time indoors. We’re excited for the first big holiday gatherings in 3 years.
The number of COVID cases will rise again, Dr. Saul says.
So will diagnoses of flu and respiratory syncytial virus — RSV, which is especially dangerous to infants and young children. Bridgeport Hospital’s pediatric wing is already full of young RSV patients, Dr. Saul says.
The reason for the triple rise is simple. After 2 years of masks — which limited the spread of not only COVID, but other diseases — we are once again breathing on and close to each other.
What can we do?
“Get a flu shot!” Dr. Saul urges. “It’s effective. The match to this year’s strain is very good.
“If you’re sick, stay home. COVID quarantine is only 5 days now. Basic handwashing is important too.”
And of course: Get your vaccines and booster shots.
Dr. Saul knows that “COVID fatigue” is real. He understands that people are tired of hearing they should get yet another booster vaccine.
But they should.
“I can’t blame them for how they feel,” Dr. Saul says. “Still, COVID isn’t gone. The latest variant lasts longer. It’s not a walk in the park.
“But with vaccines and boosters, you won’t get as sick. You won’t get hospitalized. You won’t die.”
Dr. Saul began training in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. For years, patients died. Then in 1995, “cocktail” medications became available. HIV is now a manageable disease.
He thought AIDS was the worst he’d ever see. Three decades later, he faced the “exhausting and terrifying” COVID pandemic.
Though everyone is eager to get back to their pre-2020 lives, the threat remains.
So, Dr. Saul says: Be smart. Take advice seriously.
And “listen to science. Science is good. It’s gotten us to where we are now.”
Which — even in Bridgeport Hospital — is a pretty good place.
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