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Are COVID symptoms changing? And other questions answered about new variants

23 July 2022

MINNEAPOLIS — Hennepin County is back in the medium community transmission level according to the Centers for Disease Control’s transmission map. 

The novel coronavirus of 2019 is not yet old news, but it is evolving as patients and physicians endure the latest surge in this summer of 2022. The biggest challenge as the pandemic continues is tracking data.

“I think the shortness of breath piece is less than what we saw early on,” Dr. Mark Sannes, an infectious disease physician at HealthParters, explained to WCCO. “The cough and fever piece looks very similar. It is a different disease in the sense that we are seeing a lot less severe illness now than we did early on in the pandemic.”

The HealthPartners system of hospitals and clinics is spread throughout the Metro, including Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. According to administrators, there have been 337 people hospitalized with COVID-19 over the last 30 days, including seven currently in the ICU or on a ventilator.

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows the rates of hospitalization, while increasing, are still a fraction of what they were last winter or even in the fall of 2021. Unvaccinated adults over 65, moreover, are more than 8x as likely to suffer from a severe case of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization than those adults who are vaccinated. 

At HealthPartners, Dr. Sannes noted many of patients at the hospital with COVID-19 are also vaccinated, but Dr. Sannes insisted those numbers must be put into context.

“It’s not COVID that sent them to the hospital,” he explained. “I think it’s reflective on what’s happening in the community. They’re coming in with heart attacks or a stroke and something totally unrelated to COVID. They only happen to have COVID because of how transmissible it is in the community.”

As for patients suffering from severe cases of COVID-19, Dr. Sannes said the major symptom reported among patients is fatigue.

“There used to be a lot more pneumonia,” he added. “If you’re in your 80s or 90s and you’re sick enough to be hospitalized and you test positive for COVID-19, weakness might be your presenting thing.”

New studies are also showing how COVID-19 symptoms are evolving, including a report from Zoe Health in the U.K., showing signs of the Omicron COVID-19 variant differ from more prominent symptoms at the start of the pandemic.

As for how to move forward as a community in this latest surge, Dr. Sannes maintained people should evaluate their own risks and think of those around them.

indoors with a large group of people, I better be thinking about whether I should be wearing a mask.”

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Author: Jonah Kaplan

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