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'We have gained some lessons' | What doctors say about the future of COVID-19 in the community

Doctors say even though the virus is spreading at a lower rate compared to this winter, you should still do what you can to keep yourself safe.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services dashboard shows statewide COVID-19 numbers increase slightly, as Triad doctors weigh in on where community spread is and where it could be headed in the coming months. 

"We'll be learning to live with it and slowly, gradually, we are. So as far as the numbers go, we're probably about where we were last summer before the delta surge came through," said Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Christopher Ohl with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. 

The state changed how it tracked COVID-19 metrics earlier this year, now measuring COVID-19 particles found in wastewater, emergency room visits for COVID-like symptoms, and hospital admissions. 

"Here in the Triad, just from yesterday, our numbers in our sewage are actually level or even going down a bit. So, I don’t see a huge surge or wave in our future," said Dr. Ohl. 

He said while hospitalizations have seen a slight uptick, the increase hasn't been exponential like surges we've seen in the past. 

Cone Health's hospitalizations have changed slightly, but Dr. Cynthia Snider said the healthcare system can respond easily.

"These are small enough increases that our health systems here as well as others in the community can easily handle. But I think the challenge is, in terms of more outpatient management, is ensuring patients at risk of severe disease can get access to antivirals, monoclonal antibodies," said Cone Health's Infection Prevention Director Dr. Cynthia Snider.

Deciphering between COVID-19 symptoms and seasonal allergies can be difficult, too, but Snider still recommends taking advantage of testing opportunities just to be certain. 

"I think it's really hard right now because we're still suffering from a lot of seasonal allergies so that overlap between, 'Is this COVID? Is this seasonal allergies?', I think it would be worth getting tested," said Dr. Snider. 

Dr. Snider said for the first three months of 2022, much of the state was dealing with the omicron variant, also known as BA.1. She said right now in North Carolina, 99 percent of the cases are the BA.2 variant. 

"It's more of outpatient management. Some people having nasal congestion, a few people requiring to be admitted but were not nearly seeing the ICU admissions we used to see," said Dr. Snider. 

Even though numbers are down from where they were in the winter, Dr. Ohl and Dr. Snider said it's important to keep best practices up.

"After two years of having gone through various surges, and they all are a little bit different, we have gained some lessons on how to live with it. I would say everyone has to gauge their own risks," said Dr. Snider. 

"We're in a transition from being in the pandemic's emergency phase to less emergent or kind of a contingency phase of the pandemic," said Dr. Ohl, "All of those things in life we were missing, I think it's fine to do that now, but you know, we have to kind of ride the wave a little bit just like you do at the beach and if things start going up in August again, we'll probably be out telling you, 'Here's how to protect yourself.'"