DoH, WellSpan: Surge in COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 cases surge locally

November has brought with it a surge in COVID-19 cases, both around the state and locally.

Pennsylvania saw its highest daily increase in diagnosed cases Tuesday, with 4,711 Additional Positives Brings Statewide Total to 243,368.

In Chambersburg, WellSpan Health officials confirmed the upward trend in infections here also. Cases requiring hospitalization rose from 25 a week ago at Chambersburg Hospital to 50 this week, they said.

It’s also flu season, and the first seasonal flu death was also reported in Pennsylvania this week; marking the beginning of the 2020-21 flu season. A total of 383 laboratory-confirmed flu cases have been reported so far this season.

DoH Secretary Rachel Levine urged residents to get flu shots to lower that risk at least. Both Levine and WellSpan stressed the need for renewed safety efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Hospitalization rates are increasing at each of WellSpan’s five acute care hospitals. Some, like Chambersburg, are experiencing their highest patient counts of the pandemic. The number of patients currently being treated for COVID-19 as of midday Wednesday stood at 181 for all eight WellSpan hospitals. That is more than triple the number of WellSpan patients hospitalized back in April. It is also a significant increase from just last month, officials said.

“COVID-19 has challenged our health system in many ways,” said Roxanna L. Gapstur, Ph.D., R.N., president and CEO of WellSpan Health. “Through it all the resolve of our 20,000 employees remains strong.”

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Pandemic has changed things

The pandemic has changed the way Pennsylvania’s health care systems are handling health care crises, and deliver care, Gapstur said.

WellSpan has increased its use of technology and telemedicine options to care for patients; and help slow the spread of the virus. WellSpan has also leaned into logistics, launching a patient placement center to connect operations at all its hospitals. This hub streamlines the process for hospitals to share resources.

“Our hospitals have supported one another,” said John Porter, executive vice president and COO at WellSpan Health. “We’ve structured our response in a way that taps into the strength of the health system as a whole.”

While the preparations have ensured WellSpan has had enough equipment to keep team members and patients safe, its leaders say now, more than ever, the community needs to continue to help slow the spread of the virus. Continued rise of positive cases could put a large stress on resources and capacity at regional health facilities.

“Our team is dedicated to fighting this virus as we continue to reimagine the way we deliver care for our community.”

Worry about holidays during COVID-19 surge

“With positive cases on the rise headed into the holidays, we’re concerned that family gatherings and other traditions could continue to contribute to the growing trend,” said Anthony Aquilina, executive vice president and chief physician executive at WellSpan Health. “It’s important we each take the time to practice safe, healthy behaviors. A little goes a long way.”

WellSpan will be delivering holiday safety messages in the form of Public Service Announcements throughout the holiday season to remind community members of ways they can reduce the spread of COVID, including these simple recommendations:

  • Limit gathering sizes – even small gatherings carry big risk.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in groups.
  • Follow masking and social distancing guidelines
  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.

“We are dedicated to the communities we serve, and relentless in our fight against COVID-19,” said Gapstur. “We will continue to do everything we can to help protect and care for the members of our community.”