Beaumont doctor puts Michigan's rising COVID numbers into context

When you see the recent daily amounts of announced COVID-19 cases in Michigan, it might make you think of what we went through in March: hundreds of deaths, overwhelmed hospitals and a stay-home order. 

And although watching COVID-19 numbers go up in our state is unnerving, what's encouraging is how far the medical community has come in treating it. Things are in a different place right now. 

"If you look at the data, hospitalized patients are doing much, much better than they did before which is clearly excellent news. It's the same disease, so people are still getting sick but we have a couple of medications which seem to be having a very good effect. 

"Also, in terms of the experience we've had in the past several months, even the non-medical things that we do, in terms of positioning our patients, how we oxygenate them, there's a lot of strategy that we have that we're intervening early to give us better outcomes. But, people still are getting as sick," says Dr. Justin Skrzynski, who's with Beaumont Health's internal medicine department. 

Who's needing to be hospitalized? 

"Very similar to what we saw back in the spring so it's still the respiratory issues that are getting people, so that viral pnemonia. So you've got your patients that come in with severe shortness of breath, low oxygen, those are still the things that are really hazardous and potentially lethal to people."

What's working as far as treatment in somebody that needs to be hospitalized? 

"The couple medications that we use most frequently: steroids, I'm sure a lot of people have heard about that. Dexamethasone is the one we use very commonly. That's got a lot of data behind it right now. The other medication that we use as well is called remdesivir. That's an anti-viral medication. Again, there's studies that show that one's beneficial, too." 

What else has changed in terms of hospital treatment? 

"We're much better in terms of mobilizing people, positioning them. People have heard about proning, where we have our patients on their stomach. That seems to help with oxygen as well. So there's a lot of non-medical things that we've learned as well to do with our patients to keep their oxygen levels up."

How do doctors feel going into cold and flu season? 

"It's going to be a challenge and fortunately, the same measures in the population help to prevent the coronavirus. So the things like masks, distancing - which are still very essential, even more so now that people are going to be inside in the colder months and getting to the holidays. Fortunately, those measures also help to prevent other communicable diseases like influenza, colds, things like that. So if people are very good about the coronavirus measures hopefully that will also take the edge off the flu season this year."