Pennsylvania health officials report 12,884 new COVID-19 cases marking highest 1-day total

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Saturday reported 12,884 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 411,484. This marks the highest daily increase of COVID-19 cases to date.

There are currently 5,230 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, officials said. Of that number, 1,065 patients are in the intensive care unit.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of number of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 3,800 since the end of September, health officials said.

The number of tests administered within the last 7 days between November 27 and December 3 is 405,631 with 59,817 positive cases. There were 70,469 test results reported to the department through 10 p.m., December 4.

Statewide percent positivity for the week of November 27 to December 3 stood at 14.4%.

Officials also reported 149 new deaths, totaling 11,262 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

In nursing and personal care homes, there are 38,852 resident cases of COVID-19, and 7,135 cases among employees, for a total of 45,987. Out of the state's total deaths, officials said 6,931 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

Approximately 15,455 of Pennsylvania's total cases are among health care workers.

Of those who have tested positive to date the age breakdown is as follows:

- Approximately 1% are ages 0-4;

- Nearly 3% are ages 5-12;

- Approximately 5% are ages 13-18;

- Approximately 12% are ages 19-24;

- Nearly 37% are ages 25-49;

- Nearly 22% are ages 50-64; and

- Nearly 20% are ages 65 or older.

Officials said 2,911,640 individuals have tested negative to date.

Hospital beds are filling up and medical staffs are being stretched to the limit as Pennsylvania's health care system copes with a growing number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

Nearly half of all hospitals in the south-central region of the state, and a third of those in the southwest, anticipate staffing shortages within a week, according to the state Department of Health. Nurses in the Philadelphia area say they're overloaded with COVID-19 patients, impacting the quality of care they can provide.

And Pennsylvania's top health official, Dr. Rachel Levine, said Thursday she's worried about modeling that shows the state will run out of intensive care beds this month. More than 85% of the state's ICU beds are occupied amid an enormous statewide spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations this fall.

The health secretary added that she's even more concerned about hospital staffing. While medical-surgical beds can be converted into ICU beds, the supply of medical workers is "not infinite."

"Hospitals have the ability to divert staff from one area to another, and hospitals can share staff if they absolutely have to as well," Levine said. "But there is a point where that is straining the health care system ... I hear from physicians and from hospital leadership all the time about how strained the hospitals are."

At UPMC Altoona, all 14 medical ICU beds are taken by virus patients, while other virus patients are crowding into other units, said Paula Stellabotte, a medical ICU nurse there.

"We don't have enough (staff) in the whole building," Stellabotte told The Associated Press. "We did just get some travel nurses brought in, which will hopefully help. We have some people who have left because they don't want to keep doing this kind of work" with COVID-19 patients.

Stellabotte said she is frustrated at the lack of support for public education - wear a mask, stay home - and she wishes UPMC would restrict visitors and stop elective surgeries to take some pressure off.

"As soon as one bed's empty, there's like two or three (COVID-19 patients) ready to come in," Stellabotte said. "It's non-stop."

At St. Mary Medical Center outside Philadelphia, where hundreds of unionized nurses went on strike over staffing levels last month, nurse John Chapman said Thursday that nurses are expected to care for five, six or even seven COVID patients at a time.

These patients "require so much time and they deserve the best of care, and these ratios are getting too high," Chapman told AP. "You cannot in any way provide the care these patients need, and the monitoring."

Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic, which owns St. Mary and four other hospitals in the area, said in a written statement that its "top priority has been and continues to be providing safe, timely, compassionate and high-quality patient care." Trinity is treating about 215 COVID-19 patients at its hospitals, a spokesperson said.

Chapman's union, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals, said hospitals' COVID volumes are approaching or even exceeding what they were in the spring.

Yet hospitals are still doing elective procedures - unlike early in the pandemic - "so those staff are busy and unable to help with the surge," said a union spokesperson, Megan Gorman.

Levine recently ordered hospitals to delay elective procedures if they're located in a region of the state where COVID admissions, hospital staffing and bed capacity reach critical levels, but a temporary pause has yet to be triggered anywhere.

At Temple University Hospital, staffing shortages are leading to burnout and also mean "there's less eyes on the patient," said nurse Francine Frezghi, president of the union local.

"People are going to suffer, our patients are going to suffer in care," she said.

Temple University Health System said in a written statement that it has hired hundreds of nurses since spring and has a good supply of equipment and personal protective gear.

"Temple University Hospital is systematically reviewing our staffing and resources on a daily basis to effectively manage this surge across our health system," the health system said.

Pennsylvania is averaging 6,800 new virus cases per day, up 23% in two weeks, according to an AP analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project. The state shattered its single-day record on Thursday, reporting 11,406 new cases.

Deaths in Pennsylvania have more than doubled since Nov. 18 to an average of 94 per day.


COVID-19 cases reach highest spike in Delaware County since pandemic began

Officials Friday announced that COVID-19 cases in Delaware County reached the highest daily case count since the pandemic began.

Delaware County announced on Friday, Dec. 4 its highest daily case count of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and a concern for the hospital system being overrun.

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