Fall 2022 Update

Fall 2022 Update

By: Andrew Herda, MD
Medical Director, ParkMed


We get a lot of questions at ParkMed about COVID and what the current protocols are. As a result, we wanted to share the most up-to-date information regarding current statistics for infection rates, the vaccination status, the dominant variants, virus information, and common symptoms.


Current Statistics for Local COVID-19 Levels


The current level status is defined as “medium” nationally, statewide, and at the county level. Currently, we are seeing 353 cases per 100,000 people as of mid-August. Hospital admissions are currently much lower at 7.5 per 100,000 people. In general, we’re seeing an increasing trend in cases and hospitalization since May. While the number is nowhere near where it was during some of the peaks in cases, the most recent results indicate a downward trend in new cases.


Vaccination Status


53.1% of Blount County residents are fully vaccinated.

61.7% of adults (18 and over) are fully vaccinated.

82.9% seniors (65 and over) are fully vaccinated.

The CDC defined its vaccination target as 70% of the population, so we do encourage all our patients to make an appointment with their primary care provider or pharmacist to get vaccinated.


Dominant Variants and Virus Information


The dominant variant in the Southeast region right now is the Omicron BA.5 variant. The Delta variant is no longer circulating and so other cases have been various strains of the Omicron variant.


The Omicron variant is more easily spread than previous variants, including Delta. Vaccinated individuals can still get the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and can still transmit the virus to others – even if they aren’t outwardly demonstrating symptoms. However, the good news is that Omicron is generally less severe than previous variants.


So why should you get vaccinated if you can still get and pass along Omicron? Vaccinated individuals tend to have less severe symptoms – if they demonstrate symptoms at all. They are also much less likely to progress to severe disease or require hospitalization. This is why we continue to encourage our patients to ensure they are fully vaccinated and boosted.


Symptoms of Omicron


The symptoms do range wildly from mild to severe. The most common symptoms are:

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Short of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea


Come see us at ParkMed Urgent Care if you are having mild to moderate symptoms, such as those listed above.


More severe symptoms that might require hospitalization include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent chest pain or pressure
  • Confusion
  • Inability to wake up or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue color of skin, lips, or nail beds

While this list isn’t comprehensive, you should call 9-1-1 or go directly to the nearest emergency room if you or someone you are caring for has these symptoms or any symptoms that are severe or concern to you. Call us at 865-982-3409 if you need guidance on whether you should visit our urgent care or the emergency room.


What to Do If You Have COVID or Have Tested Positive: Fall 2022 Update


Knowing what to do if you get COVID-19 can be confusing. Guidelines and protocols change based on the current infection levels regionally, so best practices can change and evolve. As a result, these are the latest updates as of Fall 2022.


According to the CDC, current quarantine guidelines state that you need to isolate even if you have not tested yet but suspect you might have COVID-19 based on symptoms and/or exposure. Be sure to get tested; ParkMed has availability seven days a week to provide COVID testing. If you test negative at that time, you may end your quarantine. If you test positive, isolation depends on whether or not you have symptoms.


Furthermore, current guidelines state that isolation can end after day 5 if you have no symptoms. To clarify how to count the days, day 0 is considered the day the test sample was collected; day 1 is the following day. If you have symptoms, day 0 is the day the symptoms started and day 1 is the first full day after symptoms started. If symptoms begin after you tested positive, then day 0 is the first day of symptoms, not the day the test was collected.


Isolation may still end after day 5 as long as you are fever-free for 24 hours and other symptoms are improving – even if they aren’t gone completely.


If you had more moderate to severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, had to be hospitalized or have a weakened immune system, isolation should end after day 10.


Treatments: Home Remedies and Over the Counter Medicines


Mild symptoms are typically treated with over-the-counter cold and flu medications. These should be used as directed on the boxes and only to treat the indicated symptoms (and if you have no contraindications). We have also suggested the use of Zinc and Vitamin C supplements to some of our patients. If you have questions about what over-the-counter medications and supplements would be appropriate for you, please come in and see us.


Treatments: Paxlovid and Monoclonal Antibodies


Paxlovid is a medication that has received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is a prescription antiviral that is effective at limiting disease severity and duration of COVID variants. Paxlovid is indicated for children 12 years and older and adults at risk of progression to more severe disease with positive test results and mild to moderate symptoms. Paxlovid is considered part of early treatment; as a result, you must start within the first 5 days of disease. It is not authorized for use for pre- or post-exposure prophylaxis, meaning it won’t prevent COVID-19 infections or reverse the virus. It is meant for those who are newly ill to avoid progressing to more severe illness.


Monoclonal antibodies (Bebtelovimab) can be distributed at a hospital or emergency room as a one-time IV injection. It is only indicated for higher risk patients or patients with a weakened immune system. Monoclonal antibodies must be given within seven days of the onset of symptoms.


Testing for COVID-19 is always available at ParkMed Urgent Care. We are open seven days a week for you. Come in if you have concerns that you have recently been exposed. Also, never forget that preventative steps like wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, avoiding crowds and public spaces (particularly if you are high-risk), and vaccination remain the most important steps for disease prevention and minimizing disease severity.


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