Danville, Pa. -- Geisinger president/CEO Dr. Jaewon Ryu wrapped up last week with a press briefing regarding the status of COVID-19 in the northeast and northcentral regions of the state.
"We hoped by now we wouldn't be doing these," he said of the briefings which have been occurring less frequently. However, examining the trends, the health system said they found it to be important to offer an update of the status of COVID-19 in the region.
"What we're seeing nationally and on the state levels don't always reflect central and northeastern Pa.," said Ryu. Current indicators show the hospital is at levels similar to the November 2020.
Percent positivity--an indicator that Geisinger uses to understand the prevalence of the virus--has bumped to 13% over the last two weeks, compared to July, when that number was between 2-3%.
Hospitals have been overwhelmed locally, Ryu said. The issue of "challenging capacity" continues regarding having sufficient beds and resources, including staff.
"The capacity issue affects those who need care for non-COVID-19 as well as COVID-19 patients," Ryu said.
"Healthcare organizations must also follow different rules than other employers during times of high community spread," Ryu continued. "Our staff are reflections of our community, and as numbers rise in the community so do the number of people we have out of work. We have more than 1,000 employees out on quarantine as we follow DOH guidelines to help ensure our patient facilities are as safe as possible from the spread of COVID."
Because COVID-19 admissions take 1 of every 6 beds which is 16-17% of capacity, and some Geisinger locations are experiencing higher than 40% admissions, Geisinger has had to "toggle back" non-emergent procedures, according to Ryu.
The approach of cold/flu season
Last year was an anomaly because of social distancing and more widespread mask wearing. Healthcare providers saw less flu because of these measures, said Ryu. Geisinger is entering the season now with increased concern for what they call a "twindemic," people who suffer from the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously.
Doctors and healthcare providers across the board recommend people get the flu shot.
As of Friday, Oct. 15, Geisinger reported throughout the health system that COVID-19 admissions currently make up about 1 in 6 of all those hospitalized at Geisinger.
- 32 COVID-19 patients on vents
- 41 COVID-19 patients in ICU
- 195 COVID-19 patients otherwise hospitalized
Ninety percent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated. Some patients have requested the vaccine once they've been admitted, but Ryu reminded, vaccines are a prevention, not treatment. Once you're hospitalized with the virus, it's too late for a vaccine.
Emerging evidence has shown that people are five times less likely to get any kind of infection, although breakthrough cases do happen. People who have received the vaccine are 10 times less likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times less likely to die from Covid, said Ryu. "It's compelling evidence that the vaccine does work."
The Delta mutation is still active
Mutations happen when people get infected, and then the virus "pivots," explained Ryu, and changes its makeup which makes it more infectious. "The way to get ahead is to eliminate the opportunity for it to spread at all," Ryu said. Masking, distancing, hand hygiene, staying away from indoor crowded environments, and vaccination, as have been the recommended actions for an ongoing period of time, work to eliminate the spread.
UPMC held a similar media briefing on Friday during which health officials — UPMC Chief Medical Officer, Donald Yealy, and chief medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology, Graham Synder — clarified questions around booster shots and vaccines in general.
Related reading: UPMC tackles vaccine doubts, booster questions
Officials with both Geisinger and UPMC both issued strong recommendations to get the vaccine, touting vaccination as a way to protect yourself, your family, friends, and neighbors, and to help ensure critical healthcare resources are available for those who need them.