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Secretary Levine: Here's how to get better, build immunity if you have mild coronavirus symptoms


State Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine gave specifics Sunday as to how to recover from the coronavirus if you have mild symptoms.

So how are Pennsylvanians getting better?

“No one has immunity to this virus. This is no accepted standard of care of medication, and there is no vaccine. And so people who are mildly ill need to stay home, and rest. Drink plenty of fluids, and take acetaminophen for fever. That is the best way to get better,” she said during her daily update. “Basically, your body will develop an immune response, and you will overcome the virus, and you will recover. But it’s very important for people to monitor their symptoms very, very carefully at home. If they start to have worse symptoms — very high, spiking fevers, severe shortness of breath, chest pain — we do not want people to wait too long.”

Residents can call their health provider to see if they need to be evaluated if symptoms get worse.

She was asked about the high percentage of coronavirus cases being in the 25-to-49 age group. She said younger adults and middle-aged adults can’t be complacent, and it was not a complete surprise because other countries have seen similar numbers..

“They are not invulnerable, and they are susceptible to this virus as everybody else is. They can get very sick, too. A significant number of those have required hospitalization. The death rates are lower in that age group than in seniors over 65 because seniors have other medical problems such as heart disease, lung disease and kidney disease, which weakens their system so that they are more likely to have serious complications and tragically might pass away,” she said.

The Press & Journal asked Levine: Are enough tests being done across the state, especially in rural areas, to give us a true picture of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania?

She said her department encourages people with significant symptoms to seek out health care evaluation and they will be tested.

“It isn’t surprising that we would see less cases in rural Pennsylvania because we have much less population density. Rural Pennsylvanians have challenges in terms of  the accessibility of health care,” she said.

She added: “I think that the statistics are accurate. We know that we have an undercount in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation in terms of number of patients. Some patients with very mild symptoms are probably staying home. We don’t know those test results. We can presume at this time if you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, that that’s what you have.”

Other points from Levine’s daily update:

• There are two field hospitals being set up in southeast Pennsylvania, with help from federal funds. They are not ready to open yet.

• She said because some test results take longer to get back depending where they are done, that the numbers released every day are “always a snapshot” and that “trends are more important than exact numbers.”

• In discussing if social distancing is working, and when the expected surge might occur, she said: “It takes weeks for social distancing to work,” and “we are going to be watching the data every day for first a plateauing of the number of new cases we are seeing and then a decrease. But the change over time is important. We need to see a sustained plateau and then decrease in the number of new cases. That will show us that our efforts are proceeding. It’s critical at that time not to release the mitigation efforts too soon or we will just see another peak.”

• She said the state would consider transferring patients from more overwhelmed parts of the state to less affected areas for treatment, but there are no solid plans to do that at this point. Logistics of moving patients can be challenging, she said..

• When asked how she is doing, she said: “I am doing well. I am trying the best I can to take care of myself and eat regularly and get enough sleep.” She said earlier in the videoconference that her mother is in a nursing home, but she is not visiting her because of social distancing, although she calls her twice a day.

• In regard to the number of available tests in Pennsylvania, she said this week looks good for the state labs, hospitals and health systems, commercial labs and the mass testing sites.

• She said warehouses, which are busy at this time, are not exempt from social distancing and hand washing guidelines.