A New York City doctor says the current surge of COVID-19 infections has created an emergency room environment different than that seen earlier in the pandemic.
Dr. Craig Spencer, a Columbia University Medical Center ER physician, took to social media Monday night to describe what he had seen since the omicron variant began creating a significant rise in COVID infections in recent weeks.
"During the first surge, COVID was the only thing we saw in our ERs," Spencer tweeted. "Now record-number COVID cases are hitting at a time when our ERs are already seeing extremely high numbers of non-COVID patients too. Thankfully the COVID patients aren’t as sick. BUT there's SO many of them."
Spencer said he has seen a difference in symptoms being displayed by COVID-19 patients now than in the pandemic's early days.
"Back in March 2020, we were flooded with so many sick and short of breath patients, it seemed like there was nothing we could do," Spencer tweeted. "I almost never feel like that anymore. We've learned so much. We have treatments. High-flow oxygen. That nightmare is over. But this is scary too…
"Today it seemed like everyone had COVID. Like, so many. And yes, like before, there were some really short of breath and needing oxygen," he added. "But for most, COVID seemed to topple a delicate balance of an underlying illness. It’s making people really sick in a different way."
Spencer cited a few examples of "really sick" patients, though "not one needed a ventilator."
"Diabetics in whom C[OVID] precipitated diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious and life-threatening condition," he tweeted. "Older folks sick with C[OVID] just too weak to get out of bed. Can’t walk. So can’t leave the hospital."
The doctor said another difference now is that COVID-19 patients end up in beds next to people "who've done everything to avoid the virus, and for whom an infection might have a dramatic toll," such as cancer patients or immunocompromised ones.
Spencer previously said that, based on his experience, booster shots have helped.
"Every patient I've seen with [COVID] that's had a 3rd 'booster' dose has had mild symptoms," he tweeted Dec. 26. "By mild I mean mostly sore throat. Lots of sore throat. Also some fatigue, maybe some muscle pain. No difficulty breathing. No shortness of breath. All a little uncomfortable, but fine."
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