Living with covid three years later

HCA Florida North Florida Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer explains how covid has impacted North Central Florida since 2020.
HCA Florida North Florida Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer explains how covid has impacted North Central Florida since 2020.
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 3:25 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The first Florida case of covid was announced on March 1st, 2020. And three years later we are still seeing the virus.

“The latest strand, it is called X-BB-1.5,” said Dr.Sean Benoit, the Chief Medical Officer at HCA Florida North Florida Hospital. “But really what that is, it just a subvariant of the omicron variant.”

Dr.Benoit says it’s important to realize the subvariants are more infectious, but not more deadly as the original covid variant. Even though its highly infectious, the treatment is the same. Dr Benoit explained, “the symptoms are similar, so you’re still going to get fever and cough, you may get some sore throat, some diarrhea, headache, those things will happen, so it’s very similar. They’ll be less loss of taste.” He added, “If they come into the hospital and they are sick enough to be in the hospital then we will give them IV remdesivir, or steroids as they need them. If they are going to be treated at home, we will give them Paxlovid and that’s one of the medications, or Malnupiravir is another medication that you can take by prescription orally at home.”

RELATED: FDA looking into another COVID-19 booster dose

Covid cases nationally have gone down. There’s less covid admissions in hospitals, less hospitalizations, and less deaths. Dr.Benoit said even though the vaccine is not 100% preventative, it’s highly effective, with the newest booster covering two strains. He mentioned, “The latest vaccine bivalent vaccine, it covers two, it covers the original covid and the omicron variant.” Benoit also explained, “the messenger RNA vaccines that we had are some of the purest forms of the vaccines that we had in order to create and build up your immune system. So it’s no shock that people felt a little sick when they got the vaccine but that only means that the vaccine is working and that your immune system is working.”

If you’re wondering how many boosters you need, Dr.Benoit said covid is something that will experience like the flu.

“It’s going to be very similar to the flu and you probably will need a booster every year and that’s what the latest studies are showing us, " said Dr.Benoit.

Other than the effectiveness of the vaccine, Dr.Benoit said healthcare workers have gained lots of knowledge battling covid.

“In North Central market, we’ve seen quite an influx in the summer of 2021, and we have not seen that particular influx and that deadly that we have seen before. Nevertheless we want our staff to be fully prepared, so we have the PPE’s. We learned quite a bit from covid the last few years so we know how to protect ourselves as well as to protect our patients as well.”

After three years battling covid, Dr.Benoit said he was most surprised by the outpouring support and love for the front line workers.

“We saw supermarkets, we saw restaurants, supporting the healthcare providers, supporting the first responders, the police, and the paramedics in a way that I have never seen. I guess we have not been through this type of pandemic before. Most people will never see this again.”

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