Dr. Alex Heard

Dr. Alex Heard, chief medical officer at Adventist Health Sonora, responded Friday to recent questions about COVID-19 patients, recent recoveries of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and how they are treated.

Adventist Health Sonora had 77 patients admitted with COVID-19 in October, and 17 of them died, Dr. Alex Heard, chief medical officer at Adventist Health Sonora, said in an interview Friday morning at the only hospital in Tuolumne County.

“That makes 22 percent, who died,” Heard said. “So if you flip it, that means 78 percent recovered and went home.”

Heard responded Friday to recent questions about COVID-19 patients at Adventist Health Sonora, recent recoveries of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and how they are treated. Heard did so in part to update information about COVID-19 treatments and to dispel myths.

“What Adventist Health has done, collectively across 20 hospitals in the three states, is review the best literature to come up with the treatments that are evidence-based,” he said. “That evidence-based treatment is applied to all patients admitted with COVID.”

Whether an individual patient is vaccinated or not, “everyone receives the same evidence-based treatments,” Heard said Friday in a ground-floor office at the main hospital building off Greenley Road.

Since September, pre-hospital treatments for COVID-19 have included monoclonal antibodies, Heard said.

In-hospital treatments include oxygen, antibodies, steroids, anticoagulants, “a lot of supportive care, and escalating treatments dependent on how the patient’s disease progresses,” Heard said. Intensive care unit treatments can include proning, steroids, ventilation, and more antibodies.

“It’s not one size fits all,” Heard said. “It depends on the individual case.”

Heard emphasized that monoclonal antibodies, including Regeneron, are used to treat COVID-19 patients at Adventist Health Sonora. 

Regeneron gained headlines more than a year ago when former President Donald J. Trump contracted the coronavirus in October 2020 and received experimental Regeneron therapy. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for Regeneron’s COVID-19 antibody treatment in November 2020, less than two weeks after Trump lost his reelection bid to current President Joe Biden.

“Monoclonal antibodies and Regeneron are used for early outpatient care here at the hospital,” Heard said. 

Heard also said there are “some exciting new treatments on the horizon” that the hospital doesn’t have yet, adding that there are other treatments in the public consciousness that the hospital doesn’t use.

When asked to name some of the treatments the hospital doesn’t use, Heard declined because he said there’s evidence that they could cause harm. 

There is no cure for COVID-19 yet, Heard said.

“You can trust that our medical care here has the latest arsenal of treatments that are reviewed regularly,” he said. “Our outcome data are routinely reviewed against other hospitals favorably. We want every patient to have confidence in our care. And we want every patient to know we are here for you, no matter what.”

A chart provided by Heard showed that out of the 77 individuals admitted to Adventist Health Sonora with COVID-19 in October, 47 of them were unvaccinated and seven others were partially vaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status. 

The same chart showed that out of 10 patients admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit for COVID-19 last month, eight of them were unvaccinated. Of the five ICU patients who required ventilation in October, four of them were unvaccinated. 

Of the 17 individuals who died of COVID-19 at the hospital in October, the chart showed 11 were confirmed as unvaccinated and three others had an unknown vaccination status.

As of Tuesday, COVID-19 had contributed to 140 deaths in Tuolumne County and 86 deaths in Calaveras County since the pandemic began early last year. At least 67 of Tuolumne County’s COVID-19 deaths — more than 47% — had occurred in the past four months.

“It’s been difficult,” Heard said. “It’s been a year and a half. Everyone is tired and worried and stressed, but we’re all still one community.”

Heard emphasized that all patients admitted to the hospital, whether they have COVID-19 or not, will receive the same “excellent, compassionate care because our mission is to live God’s love by inspiring health, wholeness, and hope.”

Adventist Health Sonora employs about 1,500 physicians, providers, and associates at the hospital and its satellite health care facilities. It is part of its parent network, Adventist Health, which is billed as a faith-based, nonprofit integrated health system affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, with facilities in more than 80 communities on the West Coast and Hawaii. For more information visit www.adventisthealthsonora.org.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.net or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

Recommended for you