HOCC expert says to get vaccinated as soon as possible, but continue to follow safety guidelines either way

Published on Tuesday, 26 January 2021 11:52
Written by Erica Drzewiecki


Get vaccinated as soon as possible, but continue following the recommended protocol to block the spread of covid-19 whether or not you’ve had the shot.

That was the main message put out by Hospital of Central Connecticut Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Virginia Bieluch Monday afternoon, during a virtual meeting she had with State Rep. Gary Turco of the 27th House District, representing Newington.

“I think it’s really important for us as healthcare providers to provide education to our community members,” Bieluch said. “I know there’s a lot on TV but I think it helps to bring a local perspective on the issue. The biggest message I want to convey is to please keep wearing your mask and socially distancing.”

Turco asked his constituents to submit questions for Bieluch ahead of the virtual meeting in order to guide their discussion. He also had a few of his own inquiries for the doctor.

“Although we are not at the same level of restrictions as last March and April,” Turco asked, “from everything I keep reading and hearing our number of hospitalizations and infections seem to be as bad as they were when we first got hit with this. Is that true?”

The peak period of covid-19 infection rates and deaths in Connecticut was both May 2020 and then Nov. 2020early Jan. 2021, she confirmed.

“We are still very busy, but hospitalizations have come down from the peak surge post-Christmas,” Bieluch said. “We’re hopeful with the vaccine on the horizon that hospitalizations will start to decrease.”

Among the inquiries received were the challenges getting vaccinated, distribution discrepancies in other states and concerns about covid-19 mutations.

Bieluch assured people the same recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention applied to preventing the spread of any mutated variants of the coronavirus.

“We know that masks work, social distancing works and hand washing works,” she said, going on to add, “If the virus does not have new hosts to go to it’s not going to mutate as much.”

One of the most important guidelines for people to remember after they are vaccinated is to keep wearing their masks, washing their hands and staying away from people. This is because researchers have yet to understand how the virus behaves when it is inhaled by an immunized individual and if it can still be spread by that individual.

“I’ve been vaccinated, but don’t know that I can’t carry this virus in my nose and transmit it to somebody else,” Bieluch said. “The pharmaceutical companies are looking into this. For now, I’m still doing everything I was doing before to protect other people.”

The vaccine was determined to be about 95% effective in healthy individuals at this time. It is currently administered in two doses. Some people posed concerns that their second shot was rescheduled, questioning its efficacy in this case.

“Don’t be concerned if your second dose is a few days late,” Bieluch assured them.

One of the most common questions she’s hearing from local residents right now is why friends and family of equal age and health status living in Florida or other states have already received their vaccines while they have not.

“The CDC made recommendations as to prioritizing the vaccine but you will find different states with different timelines,” Bieluch said, adding that Connecticut has one of the best distribution rates in the country so far.

The question everyone wants to know but nobody seems to be able to answer: when is life going to return to normal?

“I’m hoping once the warmer weather sets back in we’ll begin to feel better and that by the fall we’ll begin to feel normal again,” Bieluch said in regards to this topic.

“So what I’m hearing then is, this is not the time we should be dropping our guards and relaxing,” Turco affirmed.

Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at edrzewiecki@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Newington on Tuesday, 26 January 2021 11:52. Updated: Tuesday, 26 January 2021 11:54.