UNMC doctor says we aren’t in the clear as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations rise

Dr. Lawler said he believes it’s a mistake to think we are past the worst of COVID-19.
New cases are higher and hospitalizations are the highest we've seen since March.
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 4:36 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - President Biden coming down with COVID puts the spotlight back on the pandemic, but medical experts say there are many people who still don’t see the light.

“We are seeing much higher transmission rates in many communities across the U.S. and increasing rates of hospitalizations,” said Dr. James Lawler, an infectious disease expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “However, to be honest, I’m not sure that people are really paying much attention anymore to COVID, even with this recent addition.”

Lawler, who is one of the co-executive directors of the Global Center for Health Security at UNMC, said he believes it’s a mistake to think we are past the worst of COVID-19.

“The reality is there’s no guarantee that future variants will be less severe; and again, the current variants we see for people who have no immunity or less immunity — they are proving to be just as problematic,” he said.

At this week’s Douglas County Board of Health meeting, Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse said COVID-19 cases in our area are once again on the rise.

“We are seeing an increase in hospitalizations and these are people who have COVID however what I am hearing is that although these people have COVID it’s maybe not necessarily what they’re initially coming to the hospital for,” Dr. Huse said.

Dr. Lawler stresses that the best defense against COVID-19 is to get the vaccine, and said he hopes more shots will be available for more people soon.

“Hopeful for people under the age of 50 that will also include a fourth dose I’m hopeful that the FDA and the CDC will take action on that in the coming weeks,” he said.

Dr. Lawler said we should be wearing masks and keeping our distance from others — the same things we did early on in the pandemic — especially with fall, winter, and the start of school approaches.

“The pandemic isn’t over, and even if we want it to be ignoring it, it’s not going to make things better,” Dr. Lawler said. “We need to get up to date on vaccines and we need to take those precautions in high-risk indoor environments to prevent the spread and if we don’t do these things then the fall is going to be unfortunately ugly again.”

Dr. Lawler said the development of a vaccine to fight off different COVID-19 variants is still a ways down the line.

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