“The virus may be changing,” Dr. Donald Yealy said Thursday during a news conference. “Some patterns suggest the potency is diminished.”
Yealy said UPMC has successfully treated more than 500 patients with coronavirus since March, and fewer patients are requiring ventilators to help them breathe.
People seem to be contracting the virus less easily and cases appear to be less severe than when the pandemic first began, he explained.
“We’ve tested 30,000 and the positivity rate was less than 4 percent. We tested 8,000 with no symptoms and only 21 came back positive,” Yealy said.
He also said the risk of being in a car crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike “is greater than the risk of testing positive for asymptomatic COVID symptoms.”
The chief medical officer of UPMC Senior Communities, Dr. David Nace, said that thanks to the measures taken by medical officials in the hospital, there were zero reported cases Thursday in the UPMC long-term care and senior care facilities.
“We’ve followed the basics of infection control that others have also tried to follow,” Nace said. "Including attention to surveillance of patients who exhibited signs and symptoms.”
“We can’t test our way out of COVID-19,” he added. “Testing is a tool, not a cure.”
Researchers at UPMC are unsure at this point why they are seeing lower infection rates, but said it could be a variety of factors including weather and the fact that “viruses tend to mutate with time.”
“And, finally, we are probably making better decisions about who needs what kind of care,” Yealy added.
Elsewhere in the world, Central and South America are now seeing higher rates of infection with the biggest rise in caseloads in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico and Peru, according to the United Nations.