Wellness Watch: COVID Q and A Session with Dr. Mark Povroznik

By Julie Perine on January 16, 2022 from Wellness Watch via

As we spring into 2022, Connect-Bridgeport launches a new blog, concentrating on all things health and wellness. "Wellness Watch" is brought to you by Healthy Harrison's Change Your State, an initiative which features five pillars: Move, mind, eat, connect and purpose. Change Your State is a product of Bridgeport's win of the 2020 Health Games and is currently hosting a third round of weight loss challenges. Visit
With COVID numbers skyrocketing and individuals on high alert, Dr. Mark Povroznik, Chief Quality Officer and Chairman of Infection Control at United Hospital Center, answers some common questions relating to the ongoing pandemic.
Q: Is the uptick we are seeing now the Omicron variant? And are the symptoms different for this variant?
A: The uptick is "likely" Omicron. The past two days have been positivity rates of 35-39%, record highs! This is a testament to the high transmissibility of Omicron. To help validate what is circulating, UHC sends on average 40 samples for variant sequencing. Mon-county area is believed of recent to be over 80 percent Omicron, based on recent Covid-positive tests. Our area has lagged behind that the last couple weeks, but I suspect with our significant rise in positivity, that it is a result of Omicron.
As far as symptoms, there is variation as one would expect, given we have a mixture of patient types (vaccinated, unvaccinated, boosted, natural infection with and without vaccinations). In the most recent analysis from UK of those that had Delta compared to Omicron, both groups had runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing and a sore throat. Loss of taste and smell appears to be less common for those likely to have Omicron. Also, serious lung infections appear to be less likely with Omicron. This may be because Omicron preferentially infects the upper respiratory tract compared to prior variants.
Q: When you wear a mask, is it more for your own protection or the protection of others?
A: I do notice the look by some when I’m at the grocery store wearing my mask. There's the assumption by some that I'm not vaccinated. To the contrary, I am vaccinated and boosted. Even with that, I know there isn't 100 percent protection. So, I wear a mask for added protection where I feel the risk of viral transmission is potentially high. I value the privilege to work in healthcare and want to lower the risk of something like Covid affecting my ability to be there to serve. Likewise, it's to protect others. For example, we know that Omicron can be highly contagious two days before one even has symptoms. That's the mentality behind wearing the masks that I help protect myself and at the same time not unknowingly transmit to someone at higher risk of illness.
Q: Can you save N95 masks and use them over again?
A: Yes. They have a longer life than a one-time use. When masks get moist, you should switch them out. The CDC guidelines recommend wearing your N95 and KN95 for no more than five uses. However, if you are rotatating your masks, washing your hands and storing them well, you can get five uses or a little bit more. Placing a ticker mark with a pen can help keep track of the number of wears. To clean, the mask can be heated to a maximum of 158 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes. This can be done by hanging the mask in your oven using a wooden clip. They can also be steamed. It is not recommended to use soap and water. They can be stored between use in a brown paper bag to keep it away from dirt and germs on surfaces.
Early in the pandemic when N95 masks were critically limited, we operationalized disinfecting them with powerful ultraviolet light.
Q. How can results be different with antigen vs. PCR testing?
A. With antigen testing, you can get a negative result if you do not have enough of the viral load for it to react. You might test negative, but in another day or two, there will likely be enough to test positive. A positive antigen test along with having symptoms is a real result. If it's positive, it's real. It could also be negative because the virus has mutated and the antigen test being used is no longer sensitive enough. This is being seen with some of the current antigen tests.
With the PCR, there's more specificity, so it can easily be determined if the virus is there or not. The sensitivity of that test is why we can detect the virus up to 90 days once you've had it. It doesn't mean you're infectious for that duration, but it means the virus is detectable. A PCR test does not tell if the virus is live or dead, just identifies that it is present. That's why it is generally accepted not retest within 90 days once a person has tested positive. As we learn about Omicron, this could change. Currently, acquiring Covid a second time within 90 days would be rare.
Note: Dr. Povroznik added that if one is symptomatic, but tests negative with an antigen test, he or she should still quarantine - especially if there is a fever. Either retest in another day or two, or seek a PCR testing site. The symptoms could be the result of the flu, rhinovirus or a number of other commonly circulating viruses leading to a negative result, the test itself was not sensitive enough to identify the virus, or there was not a high enough viral load just yet to trigger the test to be positive.
Likewise, if you test positive with an antigen test, do the ethical thing - quarantine with self-care. But you may still need the PCR test because treatments require a positive PCR confirmation test. He suggests even with a positive antigen test, you should contact your primary care giver and obtain an order to test at the UHC tent (or visit another PCR test site) in case you meet criteria and are able to receive monoclonal antibodies or the newly released antiviral oral treatments.
Home antigen test results are not included in COVID totals released through the media daily. "What is reported are test results by testing facilities, which are PCR tests" Povroznik said. "We are mandated to report all positive tests the same time every day, seven days a week.
Q: Does blood type really play a role in whether or not one is more likely to contract the COVID virus?
A: Several studies have investigated the association between blood type and COVID infection. Each of the reports provided some understanding of the underlying disease process. There are inconsistencies in their findings, but also some trends. Many of the studies report that blood type "A" might predispose one to increased susceptibility of infection and type "O" and "Rh negative" blood groups might be protective. Although this appears to be a trend, the impact of blood type on clinical outcomes remains unclear. At this point in time, there doesn't appear to be any relationship between blood type and COVID-related severity of illness or mortality.

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