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OSF HealthCare doctor on COVID-19: 'I've never seen anything like this'

Dr. Mark Meeker sat down with News 8 for an in-depth interview on the coronavirus over the summer.

GALESBURG, Ill. — OSF HealthCare's Dr. Mark Meeker has had many people ask him whether COVID-19 is real.

"My response to them is, 'I've been seeing patients for over 33 years, and I've never seen anything like this," he said in August of this year.

Meeker said OSF has had bad flu seasons where there have been patients overflowing into hallways.

"But I've never seen the rapid severity, the climbing numbers, and the ICU stays and the deaths that we've seen from COVID," he said. "I've just never seen that in my career."

Meeker has seen powerful evidence the vaccines are still working against the Delta variant.

"The efficacy of preventing hospitalization of the original virus for the Pfizer vaccine for example was over 95%, and it seems that with the Delta, that drops down to the high 70s," he said.

Meeker said the data's preliminary and immature right now, and experts don't have all the answers because this is a new virus.

"The numbers are pretty clear cut in my mind," Meeker said when asked if the numbers speak for themselves. "That's why I cited our personal experience, and Jarred know this. He's an ICU nurse at OSF St. Francis. He know this better than I do." 

Meeker's son Jared, who treated Jessica Archdale from OSF too, has been dealing with COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began. He said the effectiveness of the vaccine's profound. 

"Although it's not a perfect vaccine, it doesn't need to be," Jared said. "It needs to be effective and help, and it certainly does that."

Mark said there's no single solution to the virus, but vaccines are probably our most effect defense against COVID, more so than wearing a mask.

"There have been millions of doses given. There were tens of thousands of patients studied in the original clinical trials to get the emergency use authorization, so these vaccines weren't rushed through and not studied and not scrutinized," Mark said. "They were highly studied, first in animal studies and then in human studies, and now, we have a ton of experience, so I think that the vaccine data is very solid." 

Mark said studying masking data is also very difficult. The N-95 masks are fit tested and sealed, so they protect against COVID-19 droplets that are spread through another person's saliva, as well as virus particles that are suspended in the air. 

Cloth masks do not block virus particles, and they don't block all droplets, but they do block enough to make some difference.

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