TV host battling COVID-19 on supplemental oxygen despite having no prior underlying conditions

The Los Angeles County Department of Health has confirmed 1,821 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday as the Delta variant is on the rise in the county.

Timothy Reitz, a 49-year-old Burbank resident, spoke with FOX 11 after contracting the virus about 13 days ago. Reitz hosts a TV variety show, The Rise Effect.

He exercises regularly and has no underlying health conditions.

"I started getting sick about 13 days ago. I got tested probably four to five days after I first started feeling sick. I just started getting really fatigued and weak and feeling strong headaches and knew something was wrong but didn't know it was COVID yet but stayed home in case it was and then finally got a chance to go to my doctor to do the test," he said.

Reitz and his wife both tested positive for the virus. Reitz was undergoing treatment when his doctor urged him to go to the hospital for shortness of breath. He has been hospitalized for three days in the telemetry unit, which is one step below the intensive care unit. He is undergoing treatments, including supplemental oxygen.

"You didn't think it would happen to you of course but here I am [in the hospital] dealing with it [COVID-19] so it's a little eye-opening to see. I think everyone's hopeful that they are able to avoid the virus and not be able to ever experience it," he said.

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Reitz said he is far from alone in the hospital with COVID-19.

"The virus is spreading. I'm not sure if people thought it was fading away but it seems like the hospital is kind of packed with COVID patients. I'm a first-hand witness to seeing it. It's [Covid-19] still active. It's still on the move," he said.

Reitz said the infection has changed his attitude toward the pandemic.

"It definitely changed my mindset. You can feel a little carefree and it's been a year and a half since it's broken out so you can feel untouchable if it hasn't come near you, but it's eye-opening," Reitz said. 

Reitz has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, saying he has always been skeptical of the vaccine. LA County health data shows more than 99% of new COVID-19 infections are unvaccinated patients.

"Any kind of vaccinations, I'm usually a skeptic. I don't take flu shots. I just never felt comfortable with vaccinations and such," he said.

However, following his diagnosis, he's reconsidering his stance and will research.

"I'll do the research now. I'll definitely put more time and effort into seeing what the vaccine is," he said.

Dr. Thomas Yadegar, the Medical Director of the Intensive Care Unit for Providence Cedars Sinai Medical Center, said the Delta variant is impacting unvaccinated patients who are younger and healthier like Reitz.

"It's the patients who did not get their vaccines, people who are younger and healthier and who thought they were indestructible and that this virus wasn't a threat for them, and unfortunately with the Delta variant being much more contagious, it seeks those people out who are unvaccinated and it does infect them," said Yadegar.

Yadegar said treatments vary for hospitalized patients but can include antibody infusion, supplemental oxygen, Remdesivir, and steroids. 

"What we've found with this virus is it's not just a viral infection, but it really induces your immune system to attack your body," he said.

Yadegar said their hospital is not experiencing the influx of COVID-19 patients like last winter, but the numbers are climbing. According to LA County officials, there are 544 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 22% of these people are in the ICU. Two weeks ago, there were 273 people hospitalized with COVID-19 complications.

"Unfortunately, what we've noticed is this is a ticking time bomb and before you know it, you go from five patients to 50 patients in the hospital. That's what happened in the wintertime. If the Delta variant was present before we had vaccines, we would be dealing with hospitals that are overrun, making tough decisions about limited resources for patients and who is going to get an ICU bed or get a ventilator," said Yadegar.

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Yadegar said it is important for everyone who can get vaccinated to do so.  

"Every day that this virus stays with us and infects another human being, it becomes stronger in that it replicates and mutates, and it's only a matter of time before it mutates enough to making the vaccines less effective so we don't want to get there and deal with that thought and that's why it's so vitally important that everyone gets vaccinated," he said.

The rise in COVID-19 infections in LA County led to officials reimplementing the indoor mask mandate. Masking for everyone while indoors, regardless of vaccination status, is required in all indoor public places, venues, gatherings and businesses (including offices, retail, restaurants, gyms, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings and state and local government offices serving the public).