Q&A: What the delta variant surge means for the future of the pandemic

Dr. Saman Soleymani of Avecina Medical Urgent Care joins us to discuss the rising cases of Covid-19 in Florida.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As COVID-19 cases surge, more people are getting tested for the virus locally.

Dr. Saman Soleymani with Avecina Medical Urgent Care sat down with The Morning Show to talk about the delta variant surge, vaccines and the future of the pandemic.

Here are some of the questions Dr. Soleymani answered on Wednesday:

You have three clinics throughout Northeast Florida, how busy are they right now?

It’s as busy as we’ve ever been. Busier than the peak of COVID last year. The demand for testing has quadrupled over the last six weeks or so.

Did you ever imagine COVID-19 cases would be as bad as they are right now?

No, I definitely -- you know, in April, May, when things kind of really slowed down and the numbers were down… we were still seeing positive cases but it dramatically dropped off… I really considered that this was over, and it was pretty much dwindling down, and then toward the second half of June, we start seeing an uptick of our patients coming in with being positive.

Obviously, the blame is going on the delta variant, but why? Didn’t we think we had this virus under control?

Well, viruses being viruses, you know, they don’t read our medical textbooks or our recommendations. Viruses mutate. Most bacteria and virus that we know have mutated at some point and there’s already multiple mutations of the original coronavirus. And this version of it -- typically the ones that are the most virulent and the most aggressive were the ones that basically pop their head in and become visible to everybody because the friendlier versions, obviously, we never hear about. So, the delta variant is a significantly more virulent version of the original COVID-19.

Is it safe to say that most of your patients that are sick have the delta variant?

The national average shows greater than 80% of all positive COVID patients currently have the delta variant, so four out of five patients have delta.

What’s the difference between the original virus versus what we see now?

We’re seeing a lot fewer asymptomatic patients and last year we almost had a consistent, almost half the people that tested positive were asymptomatic or were extremely minimally symptomatic. Patients would come in for their pre-op physical, and they would test positive not even being there initially for a COVID test. But now, I mean a significant portion of patients are just sick. They’re symptomatic.

What are your numbers?

We are consistently over 20% positive tests daily. Last year, our positivity rate averaged about 10%. Today, if we touched 100 patients, 20 or more of those are positive.

There’s a big push from local leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, for people to get vaccinated. What is the status right now of patients that are vaccinated versus those who are not vaccinated?

Obviously, it’s a personal decision for a lot of people and like you said, it’s very controversial, but the data show overwhelmingly that the patients that are hospitalized, that are severely sick, almost 97% plus of them are unvaccinated patients. Now, in our office are being double vaccinated does not prevent you from catching coronavirus whether delta or not, but we do not see those patients ending up on a vent (ventilator) or ending up in the hospital, so your mortality and morbidity are significantly less. And when you look at even at hospitals in Jacksonville, 95% plus patients that are hospitalized, are all unvaccinated.

Are you seeing reinfection where those who have already recovered from coronavirus are getting it again?

Yes, it’s an everyday occurrence where patients coming in, thinking that I have a sinus infection or they even have allergy symptoms, and they say “well, I don’t even need a COVID test. I had COVID back in January or December.” And now that CDC requires or recommends any respiratory type symptoms to be screened for COVID to make sure you’re not passing it on to somebody else, those patients are all testing positive, so we have many patients that are on their second COVID course.

About the Authors:

Carianne Luter is a social media producer for News4Jax and has worked at Channel 4 since December 2015. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a communication degree.

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.