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Nebraska better prepared for COVID surge

Doctor discusses COVID, flu preparations
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 12:03 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - A surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations has not been totally unexpected by health officials.

Dr. Nikhil Jagan, a pulmonologist and critical care expert, spent much of the initial surge of the coronavirus pandemic at CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island. He says a second surge has always been anticipated by healthcare providers.

Jagan adds that they do feel better prepared for a second wave of COVID cases, pointing out there were a lot of unknowns when the virus first started to appear in Nebraska. They now have up to seven months of experience in treatments.

As of Wednesday, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website reports there are a record 380 active hospitalizations of COVID patients in the state. Jagan notes some of the stays are shorter than in the spring. Part of this is due to better methods of treatment. It is also attributable to the patients awareness.

“Patients are coming in earlier than we saw early on,” said Jagan. “They were sicker back then”.

Over 80 percent of hospitalized patients in Nebraska have been over the age of 44. But Jagan points out that is not because of fewer young people getting the virus.

“For younger folks, the infection rate if definitely going up, but we haven’t seen more of them in the hospital.”

Jagan also says it is increasingly important that people be aware of the virus, as we are also entering into the traditional flu season. “We have an ongoing pandemic and the flu season is coming up,” said Jagan.

Jagan said it is possible for a person to have both the coronavirus and the flu. He says that puts added emphasis on the long-stated precautionary measure everyone can take.

“Our message is to wear a mask, follow social distancing and quarantine if you are sick.” He also added frequent hand washing as an effective deterrent.

Jagan was asked how he, and other health professionals, are coping with the “COVID fatigue” that many people are feeling. He calls that feeling a challenge for everyone to recognize.

“What keeps us going is we’re all in this together,” said Jagan. “Everybody is going through it.”

As for how long the pandemic will be with us, Jagan says he wishes he knew when it would be over, but he doesn’t. That doesn’t mean he is not hopeful.

“(I’m) cautiously optimistic of a vaccine and hoping it is effective and it works and we get through it,” said Jagan.

His key point is to stay safe, wear masks and social distance.

“We’ll get through this together.”

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