LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — At Southern Hills Hospital, it is a very different scene in comparison to what they saw back at the beginning of the year.
At their ER, rooms were filled with COVID-19 patients, and extra beds were taken out just to provide additional care, but what was once filled at capacity is no longer an issue.
Dr. William Fernandez, chief medical officer at Southern Hills Hospital, says it is a breath of fresh air, but we still cannot put the virus behind us.
“We are seeing the lowest number of patients we’ve seen since last summer,” Fernandez said.
Their ER is currently seeing only a few COVID-19 patients per day. Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky says this is a common situation at all three of the hospitals he oversees, including Southern Hills.
“Over the past couple of weeks, we have really seen a decline in the number of people hospitalized with COVID,” Murawsky said.
The Nevada Health Response Dashboard shows back in January there were more than 1,700 confirmed and suspected hospitalizations statewide. Currently, we are looking at about 200 — a decrease of about 80% in two months.
Dr. Murawsky says this downward trend is a positive sign and now it is critical you take action.
“We now have a safe place to provide care and right now we want to make sure people know it is time to get back to your doctors to catch up on all the care that has been delayed,” Murawsky said.
Dr. Murawsky says as of right now only about 20% of the people infected with COVID need to be hospitalized. ICUs now have plenty of space, and resources are being allocated in other critical areas.
“We want to make sure people go in and get their preventative screenings so that we can catch that heartache, prevent a stroke, fix a hip that is suffering from pain,” Murawsky said.
He said this has been a major learning curve for hospitals in the valley. Now with a patient infusion center, COVID medications, and a better system to handle this virus, but as cases seem to go down, there is a chance of a fourth shot from Pfizer.
Fernandez says right now the focus needs to be elsewhere.
“The most important thing is we have a ton of people that still haven’t been vaccinated, so more importantly, it’s important to go and get your two shots and then you can go and get a booster,” Fernandez said.
Pfizer has sent in data to the FDA on the fourth dose of its COVID vaccine. Experts say because of a decrease in protection from the first three doses, a fourth one may now be necessary. Dr. Fernandez says more vulnerable or immunocompromised individuals should talk to their doctor about this.
He says he does not have a crystal ball, but the roll-out of new vaccines may be a regular thing.
“An endemic condition where we have to get annual vaccines — it is soon to tell, but the best thing you can do is stay vigilant and get your annual vaccine,” Fernandez said.
We still do not know when this fourth dose will be available, but Fernandez recommends you have a conversation with your doctor to see if this option, if and when it's available, is the best for you.