Delta variant accelerating the spread of COVID-19 in Seguin

Local doctor says unvaccinated people need the shot, vaccinated people need boosters

COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations are rising locally. It’s due in large part to the surge caused by the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus, but it’s also spreading because there are still too many people unvaccinated in the community.  

Dr. Charles Nolan, of Guadalupe Regional Medical Center, has been sounding the alarm this week. He is trying to get people to understand the need for vaccinations and other mitigation efforts when it comes to COVID-19. He says this latest surge is producing more cases at a higher rate. Dr. Nolan says the virus is spreading faster, because the Delta variant is different from what was experienced with the original virus.

“It used to be that the original variant if one person got it, they would likely spread it to one other person. Now, with the Delta Variant, the average number of people that you infect is seven and the amount of virus in your body is a thousand times more. So, (it is) more infectious. It is as (infectious) as chicken pox was in the day before we had a vaccine and if you had chicken pox and you were in a hospital, you could spread it to everyone on that hospital ward. That’s how infectious the Delta variant is,” said Nolan.

Because the Delta variant is more infectious than the original strain of the virus, infections among the unvaccinated have been skyrocketing. Dr. Nolan says there have also been several breakthrough cases being reported for people who are fully vaccinated. He says that’s all due to the mutation of the virus. He says he wants to be clear on this subject. He says fully vaccinated people can still get COVID-19, but he says they are not likely to get seriously ill or die. It’s something that Dr. Nolan can address personally because he got the virus. He says his vaccination may have saved his life.

“I am religious about wearing a mask at the hospital of course whenever I go into the public. but I used to eat lunch with colleagues and one of my colleagues got the COVID. He didn’t get very sick, but he tested positive for COVID, and then I felt a little cold and sniffles and stuff like that — like I always get with my allergies. Just to be on the safe side, I got tested and sure enough, I had COVID, but I’ve been sicker with a mild cold than I was with that. Now, I’m 68 years old and I’m on drugs to suppress my immune system because I have arthritis. Had I not been vaccinated, I would have died and instead, I got infected, but the vaccine worked because it kept me from getting seriously ill,” said Nolan.

The hospital has been using monoclonal antibody infusion to treat COVID-19 patients, who have mild to moderate symptoms. There’s a solid track record for this drug therapy, but some people might falsely believe that they don’t need the vaccine, because if they get sick, they will just get better by using this treatment. Dr. Nolan says the best course of action is to avoid getting sick altogether, which is why he’s recommending that people get the vaccine as soon as they can.

“The monoclonal antibodies is not perfect. First off, it’s not widely available. Our hospital happens to be one that has the infusion clinic setup, and I think we’ve given seven hundred and twenty infusions of the monoclonal antibody after people are diagnosed with COVID and are not yet sick enough to be in the hospital, but that’s not true across all of Texas. In New Braunfels, there’s no place that’s giving the monoclonal antibody infusion. So, it’s not widely available, and in my opinion and in the opinion of health experts, prevention is better than the treatment,” said Nolan.

Dr. Nolan wants the unvaccinated to get the shot, but he also wants those who are already vaccinated to get a booster shot when it becomes available. He says the data shows that the booster shots will help the body protect itself from serious illness.

“Starting in September, because of the more infectivity of the Delta variant and because the immune system wanes over time, they’re going to start recommending booster doses for virtually everyone that’s more than 8 months out from their final vaccination. They haven’t said what they’re going to do with people who got the J&J yet, I suspect that there will be a recommendation on that coming soon. But everyone should get a booster because the immune system wanes over time and the older you are the more likely your immune system is going to not be as responsive as when you first got the vaccine,” said Nolan.

Nolan’s push this week is like the message from many of his peers who are trying to breakthrough this political fight over COVID-19. He says it’s very real, and it’s going to take all of us working together to really get beyond this current crisis.

“It has to be a community effort. I mean we all need to be in the fight together and that’s what’s lacking right now,” said Nolan.

Dr. Nolan says the vaccines are safe and effective at stopping the spread of COVID-19 and they help to keep people from becoming seriously ill or from dying. He says this is not something that should divide us. He says there have been other examples of times where the country came together to stand against threats to our public health.

“I remember when the Polio vaccine first came out. I was a kid, and I remember lining up at the local grade school –– and the line was long –– to get the little drop of the Polio vaccine under my tongue. Things have changed in our society that people don’t trust those things, and I’m at a loss to explain it. There’s always been some vaccine hesitancy because of false information about the risk of autism, and things like that have been that have been thoroughly debunked. But this phenomenon of 50 percent of people not trusting doctors but willing to take experimental therapies that are at best ineffective and at worst, dangerous –– it defies logic to me. I don’t think you should have to wait to see your loved one die to realize the impact of that. We’re not having people walk down the hallway looking at all the people in the ICU struggling to breathe, but it’s incredible,” said Nolan.

GRMC announced this week that it had 44 COVID-19 patients, which is exceeding the number produced during past surges. The hospital is being overrun by the high number of COVID patients, and it’s impacting its ability to help more non-COVID patients. Dr. Nolan says all of this is preventable if more people will just get vaccinated.

“The other day, the emergency room was full of 22 people waiting to be admitted. We closed our regular medical ward and made it into a COVID ward. We have patients everywhere that are struggling to breathe and many of whom are going to die, and it all could have been prevented,” said Nolan.

More than 600,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Here in Guadalupe County, over 240 have died over the last year — many of them here in Seguin at GRMC. Those numbers are not just stats, and they represent real people. Dr. Nolan says more people don’t have to die from virus.        

He says we can stop that suffering by getting more people vaccinated. He says there’s no need for more people to get sick, become hospitalized, and then die from COVID-19.

“It’s not a pleasant death. You’re on a high-flow nasal cannula, not like the usual nasal cannula where people get a liter or two of oxygen when they have COP. These people are on 50 or 60 liters of oxygen and they’re struggling to breathe. And then they go on BiPap, and they’re struggling to breathe. And then if you go on a ventilator –– ventilators are not the solution –– if you’re sick enough with COVID to go on a ventilator, you have a 25 percent chance of survival. If you’re over age 65, you have a 10 percent chance of survival. And that survival’s not very good; that’s a long hospital stay –– it’s ending up in a long-term rehab center. You may never be the same. So, this is a serious illness. I never thought in my medical career I would ever see anything like this, a pandemic that’s killed over 600,000 of our citizens. I would think people should be lined up wanting to get the vaccine. That would be the prudent thing to do,” said Nolan. 

Dr. Nolan says the vaccines are well-studied, the side effects are rare, they are safe, and they work. The vaccinations are widely available at doctors’ offices and pharmacies here in the Seguin area. The Guadalupe County Office of Emergency Management is also teaming up with the National Guard to host more community vaccination clinics.

Sources: Story and article written by KWED – https://seguintoday.com/2021/08/27/delta-variant-accelerating-the-spread-of-covid-19-in-seguin/