MONTEREY COUNTY — Mee Memorial Hospital in King City will abide by recent state mandates that require hospital visitors to present proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test taken within the past 72 hours.
Dr. Joshua Deutsch, a physician from Mee Memorial, confirmed that guidance was being followed during an Aug. 11 media briefing, in which representatives from the county’s four hospitals spoke about the guidelines and current pandemic situation.
“We’re in support of the new state mandate,” Deutsch said. “It’s a way we can keep all of our communities safe visiting our hospital.”
Deutsch noted the hospital is seeing a rise in Covid patients similar to the other area facilities in Salinas and Monterey.
“To us, implementing this mandate is not about creating a two-tiered system or punishing anyone who’s not vaccinated,” Deutsch said. “It’s really about keeping everyone safe, especially the unvaccinated because they are at the highest risk of developing severe illness. We want people … to feel safe coming to our hospital.”
He explained that during the last surge, it was common for people to be too afraid to go to the hospital, even with severe illness, for fear of catching the coronavirus.
With Mee Memorial seeing a new surge in Covid patients, Deutsch confirmed most were unvaccinated, but two had been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He said no children were hospitalized at Mee Memorial with Covid, and that to his knowledge none had been hospitalized during prior points in the pandemic.
Deutsch, however, advised caution for youth and young adults.
“With the Delta variant, younger people are not as protected as many of us thought that we were against severe illness,” he said. “A lot of the patients I’m seeing in the hospital now, 25, 35 years old with significant respiratory distress, so that with the relative protection that many younger people thought that we had against this virus, is no longer the case.”
Deutsch believes the only strategy that will work long-term to quell Covid is mass vaccination, with 80 to 90% of the entire world population needing to be vaccinated.
Regarding his observations of Covid hospitalizations between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients, he said there were similarities.
“It looks very similar, it’s just less likely to happen,” Deutsch said. “Any hospitalized patient with coronavirus, there is a very typical respiratory distress. Breathing fast, oxygen going low and that shortness of breath is one of the hallmark symptoms of coronavirus.”
Deutsch explained the advice to patients who test positive with Covid is the same.
“You manage this like you would a normal cold and flu, but if you ever develop respiratory symptoms, you think you’re having difficulty breathing or chest tightness, that is a medical emergency and you need a medical evaluation,” he said.
With two vaccinated people having been hospitalized at Mee Memorial, Deutsch delivered a future outlook.
“We are seeing more coronavirus infections in vaccinated people, and that’s likely to become increasingly common over time,” he said. “I think it’s now being established that our vaccine effectiveness will not last forever. Eventually everyone probably will need booster shots, it’s just a question of when. But at this time, people who are vaccinated are still very well protected against severe illness, even though infections are becoming more common. We’ll see how that evolves in the future.”