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COVID-19 with us for long term, say experts in CEI panel

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IDAHO FALLS — COVID-19 will be with us for a long time, and at some point most people in eastern Idaho will become infected, medical professionals said in a virtual conversation hosted by College of Eastern Idaho.

CEI President Rick Aman moderated the discussion held with Idaho Falls Community Hospital Chief of Internal Medicine Dr. Scott Taylor and Dr. Troy Brumfield, chief medical officer at Mountain View Hospital. The hour-long event took place through YouTube Live on Thursday afternoon. They talked about tips, testing and how COVID-19 has affected eastern Idaho.

RELATED | 1,121 people presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Idaho

“From the health care community here regionally, we wanted to take a moment and tell the community and our region how appreciative we are of the efforts you made to help us confront this global pandemic,” Brumfield said. “It’s put us in a position where, as health care providers, I think we’re feeling a lot more confident and capable of taking care of any further issues that arise related to this pandemic as we try to transition back to some level of activity that resembles what used to be.”

Although people are wondering when life will go back to “normal,” Taylor said that’s a difficult question.

“It’s such a new virus and such a new medical problem, that there’s still a lot of unknowns,” Taylor said. “We’re trying as a community and nation to do what’s right for everybody around. As we get more information, we’ll be able to have a more definitive path.”

Brumfield said COVID-19 is currently the seventh known coronavirus that affects humans. Four other human coronaviruses cause about 20% of common colds that people deal with every year, he said.

“The problem with coronaviruses is that your immunity is waning. Just like influenza, your body’s antibodies and the mutation that the virus goes through is so frequent that every year, two years, three years, you can be reinfected by these viruses,” Brumfield said. “This probably is going to be a virus that needs to be somewhat treated with vaccines. … it’s probably here to stay, just like the other six coronaviruses that affect humans.”

Along with the classic COVID-19 symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, headache, cough and sore throat, Brumfield said the virus is also causing unusual symptoms. They are seeing patients with COVID-19 have blueing of the lips and toes, plus patients losing their sense of taste or smell.

“It’s about as contagious as the flu, and it’s a little bit less lethal than the flu,” Brumfield said.

A vaccine for the virus will take at least a year, Taylor said. He said for now, it’s about treating the symptoms with Tylenol, hydrating, having good nutrition and trying to minimize your risk.

“In my opinion, people might not like this, but I think most of us are going to get this virus. I think that’s going to be the determining factor,” Taylor said. “In a year, in our society, it’s going to be really hard to keep the vast majority of our population from getting this virus, no matter what we do from a social distancing standpoint.”

On Saturday the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 26 new cases, and no new deaths.

So far, across the state, 2,061 people have tested positive for the virus since mid-March. Officials also say that 1,267 people have now lived at least 30 days since initial infection, and are presumed recovered.

Eastern Idaho Public Health and the Southeast Idaho Public Health District report 74 people have tested positive for the virus in eastern Idaho. But as of Saturday afternoon, only nine of those people were still showing symptoms or being monitored by either health district.

No deaths have occurred in eastern Idaho.

“This illness should not be feared. It should be managed and taken care of,” Brumfield said. “The nice thing about it, ’cause it’s here — sure, the nicest thing would be that it wasn’t here — but it’s here, is that we’re going to have the majority of us as humans live through this experience OK.”

To watch the video click here.

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