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Ricketts, state medical officer provide updates on virus treatments

Nebraska City News-Press

Governor Pete Ricketts held a press conference Nov. 17 to provide an update on the state's coronavirus response.  He reminded Nebraskans that the state will move to more restrictive health measures when coronavirus hospitalizations reach 25 percent of the state's staffed hospital beds.

The Governor also renewed his call for Nebraskans to keep six feet from others in public, to wear a mask when this distance isn't possible, and to stay home when sick.

Craig Buescher, a team member with the University of Nebraska Foundation, joined the Governor at this afternoon's briefing.  He shared his story of coming down with the coronavirus, being hospitalized, and dealing with symptoms as he recovers.

The state's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone walked through the various treatments being used to help coronavirus patients get better.  He also advised Nebraskans to consider taking vitamin D supplements.  Having normal vitamin D levels has been shown to help patients as they battle coronavirus.

Gov. Ricketts: Protecting Hospitals

We've seen a tremendous increase in hospitalizations over the past several weeks.  On September 23rd, we had 200 coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Nebraska.  Today, those hospitalizations are at 938.

It's urgently important for all of us to take personal responsibility to support our healthcare workers, protect hospital capacity, and slow the spread of the virus. 

We can do this by wearing a mask, washing our hands often, staying home when sick, and keeping six feet of social distance. 

Last Friday, I announced that Nebraska will move into the "red" phase of our health restrictions when coronavirus hospitalizations reach 25 percent of the staffed hospital beds in Nebraska. 

We're calculating the number of staffed hospital beds on a 14-day rolling average.

Currently, we're in the “orange" phase, and coronavirus patients occupy just over 20 percent of staffed hospital beds in Nebraska.

Craig Buescher: Coronavirus Survivor Testimonial     

Two months ago, I was diagnosed with coronavirus.

I had symptoms prior to the diagnosis.  My legs felt weak, and I was tired all of the time.

When I first went to the doctor, he advised me to monitor my symptoms for a couple of days.

I then developed new symptoms of high temperature and limited breathing.  I returned to the doctor, who tested me and confirmed that I had coronavirus.

My doctor asked me to monitor my blood oxygen levels and to go to the ER if my levels fell below 90.

When my levels fell below 90, my wife took me to the ER.

I spent nine days in the hospital.  My main problem was difficulty breathing.  My legs were also weak, and I had to hang on to something to keep from falling.

To be honest, I didn't take the coronavirus very seriously prior to getting ill.

I wore a mask most of the time, but I thought I'd be able to fight off the virus pretty easily if I got it.

After having the coronavirus, I'm a believer in its danger.

I encourage Nebraskans to plan ahead for the holidays.

We've chosen not to gather as a family for Thanksgiving to prevent anyone transmitting the virus.  It'll be tough not getting together with our kids, but we can make the best of it through social media.

Dr. Gary Anthone: Coronavirus Treatments     

There are common treatments being used for coronavirus patients.

Remdesivir

This antiviral medication slows down the replication of the virus.

Early studies showed that remdesivir reduced COVID-19 recovery times from 15 to 10 days.

While initially only used in the late stages of COVID-19 illness, it's now used as soon as a patient is found to need oxygen therapy.

Dexamethasone

This steroid medication is used to modulate your body's inflammatory response against COVID-19.

It has demonstrated a 35 percent decrease in mortality in patients on ventilators and a 20 percent decrease in patients requiring oxygen.

It has not been shown to benefit patients who did not require oxygen.

Convalescent Plasma

The FDA approved its use in August for patients with severe and life-threatening infections.

It's plasma from donors with prior COVID-19 infection which has antibodies to fight the coronavirus. 

Monoclonal Antibodies

This lab-created antibody directly neutralizes the coronavirus to prevent progression of the disease.

It's typically given in outpatient settings to prevent a patient from becoming ill to the point of needing hospitalization.  It's given right after a patient tests positive, within the first 7-10 days.

It was just authorized on Nov. 9, and we'll be getting out our first shipment in the next week or so.

It may be able to reduce the need for hospitalization by 5-10 percent.

Vitamin D

Having your vitamin D in the normal range can also benefit you if you're hospitalized with COVID-19.

Vitamin D helps to regulate your inflammatory response.

It's beneficial to take vitamin D supplements now.

The recommended dose of vitamin D is 400 international units (IUs).  But most doctors recommend 4,000 to 5,000 IUs of vitamin D on a daily basis to get your levels built back up to normal.

This is especially important in Nebraska during winter when there's not as much sunlight.