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Fairbanks Foundation Health Partners holds conference on COVID-19 impact on borough

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 4:14 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Last week, Foundation Health Partners held a press conference in which staff discussed the current impact of COVID-19 on the Fairbanks North Star Borough health care system.

According to Dr. Angelique Ramirez, Chief Medical Officer for Foundation Health Partners, the impact of the Delta variant can be felt across the State of Alaska as cases continue to rise.

“Our new mantra unfortunately is ‘Delta is different,’“ Dr. Ramirez explained. ”We thought we had gotten a handle on things, and it’s changed. The Delta variant is far more transmissible. We are seeing family members admitted on a regular basis. We are seeing a spread that people have not been prepared for. It is also more deadly, this is not in the data but we are seeing it on a day to day basis, our colleagues in Anchorage are seeing it, and our colleagues in the Lower 48 are seeing it. It’s also more deadly with younger individuals, people in their 30s and people in their 40s. That’s something new.”

Foundation Health Partners have now moved to contingency level care, which according to Dr. Ramirez involves balancing and adapting to ensure patients receive a certain standard of care.

“Contingency standards of care is when you change how you do things,” Dr. Ramirez continued. “You change where you do it, you may change who’s doing it. So the care looks different, and it’s happening in different places - and that’s what we’re doing today. But at the end of the day, even though we’re giving infusions in the lobby, even though we may have beds in a meeting room on Two South, ultimately we are meeting standards of care.”

With the Fairbanks North Star Borough healthcare system seeing an increase in cases and facing staffing shortages, the method to decrease the spread of COVID-19 remains the same.

“We are seeing more COVID patients in the hospital, we are seeing more COVID patients at First Care, our urgent care clinic, and we are seeing more COVID patients in the emergency room,” Dr. Ramirez said. “We also know many of you have seen the lines at Capstone and how long they are for testing. All of this is just to say, this is a significant problem in our community right now.”

Dr. Ramirez continued, “At this point, there’s a limit to what we can do in terms of healthcare. This is a disease right now where we require your help. We require interventions that go beyond our four walls. We are doing our best, but there is a limit to how much we can do and how many people we can care for - and so it is vaccination, it is masking. I know nobody wants to hear it, we’re all tired of it too. But we really need everybody’s help.”

Jeff Cook, Chairman of the Board for Foundation Health Partners, also spoke on his experience with vaccines and previous pandemics.

“I’m nearly 78 years old, born and raised in Fairbanks,” Cook commented. “Been through various pandemics in the past including polio, including different flus, including mumps, measles, and other things I’ve had. I am so grateful for the science that produces vaccines, that none of my children or grandchildren, or most of the people watching and listening to this have had to worry about smallpox, or chickenpox, or measles, or mumps, or polio. It wasn’t herd immunity that eliminated these diseases, it was the vaccines.”

Cook continued, “You know this vaccine for COVID is safe, effective. COVID-1 was in 2002. These are not new concepts or new science that have developed these vaccines. It’s been coming for a long time, and it’s just wonderful that we have that kind of science. Please Fairbanks, vaccinate up, mask up, and help us get back to a normal.”

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