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New COVID-19 cases declining in York County

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations are trending downward in York County and across the state, according to the state Department of Health.

York County's seven-day average of new cases Feb. 3 was 192.3, the lowest number since Nov. 28, when the seven-day average was 189.3, the state reported, and local hospitals have been able to return to some elective procedures now that the holiday spike in cases of the virus is subsiding.

At the height of the December spike, one-third of the 600 beds at York Hospital were occupied by COVID-19 patients, spokesperson Ryan Coyle said.

"That number has been cut in half since the peak in mid-December," he said.

Coyle noted that as of Wednesday, there were just 82 COVID-19 patients at York Hospital and another two at WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital, which the health care provider converted into an acute care hospital for COVID-19.

Now that cases have been declining, the surgery and rehabilitation center is operating as a hybrid facility, with some COVID-19 patients but also rehabilitation and surgery patients, Coyle said.

UPMC, which operates UPMC Memorial Hospital in West Manchester Township and UPMC Hanover Hospital in Hanover, was treating 80 COVID-19 patients in southcentral Pennsylvania, spokesperson Kendall Marcocci said in an email Thursday.

Marcocci did not name the specific hospitals or whether those 80 patients were all in York County, but she did say the number of COVID-19 patients receiving in-patient treatments at UPMC facilities has been decreasing.

The downward trend has coincided with the first phase of the state's embattled vaccine rollout plan, which elected officials from both parties have criticized, citing confusing changes to guidelines and a lack of transparency.

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Phase 1A of the vaccine rollout encompasses about 3.5 million people, including workers in the health care industry, those who may come into contact with patients at health care facilities, all people ages 65 and older and people ages 16-64 who have high-risk conditions such as cancer, diabetes or obesity.

Both of the vaccines on the market, manufactured by the Moderna and Pfizer pharmaceutical companies, require two doses to be effective.

But state officials have said the federal government is only sending about 140,000 doses per week.

In an effort to get more doses of the vaccine to eligible recipients, the Biden administration will also be sending 1 million additional doses directly to about 6,500 pharmacies across the country.

Paula Maldanado, 4, held by her mother Karen, of York City, reacts to a COVID-19 test administered by Family First Health Manager Melanie Irvings, left, at the Spanish American Multicultural Resource Center Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The CATE (community-accessible testing and education) mobile COVID-19 unit was offering free testing there. The unit is sponsored by Capital BlueCross in collaboration with Latino Connection and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The site returns COVID-19 test results within three days, according to a press release. Bill Kalina photo

As of Thursday, nearly 651,000 people in Pennsylvania had received the first dose of the vaccine, and another 230,000 had received both doses, according to the state Department of Health.

Holiday peak: At the height of the holiday peak in November and December, York County was seeing COVID-19 death counts as high as 14 deaths in one day, and case counts as much as 300 to nearly 700 new cases per day.

A Jan. 27 spike of 713 new cases in York County appeared to show a significant batch of new positives, considering Jan. 26 had only 217 new cases and Jan. 28 had only 305, but state officials said that was likely the result of a "data dump" after a lag in reporting positive test results from urgent care centers.

"We will continue to work with the urgent care centers to ensure they are reporting accurately and timely so we can show a comprehensive view of how COVID-19 is impacting our communities," said Maggi Barton, state Department of Heath spokesperson, in an email Wednesday.

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