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UPMC Says Coronavirus Might Not Be As Potent As It Was At Start Of Pandemic

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- UPMC says the coronavirus might not be as potent as it was at the beginning of the pandemic.

UPMC's latest figures on coronavirus in our area:

  • A positive rate of less than 4 percent on 30,000 UPMC tests.
  • A positive rate of a fraction of a percent on the 8,000 people screened for the resuming of scheduled care.

"The total amount of the virus that the patient has is much less than in earlier stages of the pandemic," says Dr. Donald Yealy, UPMC senior medical director and chair of Emergency Medicine. "We've seen a continual decline in positive test results in the past few weeks."

Coronavirus is not as prevalent today compared to weeks ago. That's for our community and others.

"Recent reports from northern Italy indicate that the SARS-CoV2 virus, that is what causes COVID-19 illness and infection, may be changing, with some patterns suggesting that the potency has diminished," Dr. Yealy said.

No one knows why this might be.

"Viral pandemics are complicated. They wax and wane and some of these features we control. Some we don't control," says Dr. Yealy. "I don't attribute the change solely or predominately to mutation. We simply don't know."

The decline, Dr. Yealy refers to, stems from comments by the head of a hospital in Milan who claimed the virus is disappearing.

The World Health Organization disagrees. Now that testing is more available, the tests are detecting milder cases, and people with no symptoms.

But the virus can still be severe in some people.

"Everything that has been done in our communities has helped control the prevalence of COVID-19," Dr. Yealy says.

Dr. Yealy says the number of people UPMC has had to put on a breathing machine has decreased since the end of April.

Systemwide, UPMC has discharged more than 500 people who had coronavirus. About 100 patients remain hospitalized.


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