Secretary of Health Rachel Levine on Monday warned that Pennsylvania faces a stressful winter as public health officials work desperately to shore up a state hospital system that’s contending with record numbers of COVID-19 patients.
There were 4,405 coronavirus patients hospitalized statewide as of Monday, according to the latest available data, “clearly surpassing our highest numbers from the spring,” Levine said. It’s the highest number recorded during the pandemic — 918 of those patients were being treated in the intensive care unit and nearly 500 were on ventilators.
Most of the patients hospitalized are ages 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older.
Should the recent trends continue, officials warn, there’s a chance that the viciously resurgent pandemic could overwhelm aspects of the state healthcare system.
Of particular concern is the state’s intensive care capacity. Currently, 796 adult ICU beds remained available across the commonwealth and Pennsylvania health officials warned last week that the commonwealth could run out of intensive care unit beds by the beginning of December as hospitals reach full capacity.
Unless things change, the state could exhaust its existing ICU capacity by mid-December, according to projections from the department of health.
Officials have watched with growing alarm as a recent record-setting flood of new coronavirus cases has started to wash over the state’s hospital system.
“In public health, we are very concerned about the potential impact of the Thanksgiving holiday and particularly those people who, despite our advice, traveled … and those that did have smaller and larger gatherings,” Levine said.
While no statewide lockdowns or stay-at-home orders have been implemented, Levine said she and other health officials are monitoring hospital capacity closely, and once again encouraging residents to avoid traveling for the holidays.
On Monday, Pennsylvania reported 4,268 new cases, in addition to 5,529 new cases reported Sunday, for a two-day total of 9,797 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 361,464. There have been a total of 10,383 deaths attributed to the coronavirus to date.