Amid COVID surge, Penn State Health asks people not to come to ER for routine tests

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch

Pennsylvania passed 2 million COVID-19 cases logged since the start of the pandemic Thursday as hospitals continue to struggle with limited capacity.

York County, which will soon receive a Federal Emergency Management Agency "strike team" to assist WellSpan York Hospital, saw 795 new cases and seven new deaths reported on Thursday.

According to the state Department of Health, Pennsylvania has recorded 2,013,156 cases and 36,639 COVID-19 related deaths since the start of the pandemic. York County makes up 84,916 of those cases and 1,195 deaths. 

York County COVID-19 data as of Dec. 30, 2021

York County has the second-highest daily cases per capita among its four neighboring counties, at 132 daily cases per 100,000 people, behind Adams County at 154 daily cases per capita, according to The New York Times.

Aside from Adams County, the rate of COVID-19 spread is rising faster in York County than in nearby counties: 

  • York County: 50% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Lancaster County: 27% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Adams County: 115% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Cumberland County: 11% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Dauphin County: 17% increase in cases over the last 14 days

As a result of the high spread, hospitals are also taking steps to account for the demand. Penn State Health advised Thursday that emergency rooms should not be used for COVID-19 tests after seeing an influx of patients. 

"People seeking COVID-19 tests at the emergency department when they are not sick place a tremendous burden on the medical staff’s ability to treat patients who need emergent care,” said Dr. Peter Dillon, chief clinical officer of Penn State Health.

More:Federal 'strike team' en route to York amid spiking COVID death toll

More:Lebanon County commissioner dies of COVID-19 complications

York County hospitals had 254 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday, an increase of 10 since Wednesday. Of those patients, 55 adults are in the ICU and 50 are on ventilators.

WellSpan York Hospital, which had 197 COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday, is set to receive federal assistance  in early January to deal with its surge.

Randy Padfield, director of the state Emergency Management Agency, said key supports include increasing general medical and surgical beds for COVID-19 patients and additional staff to work alongside hospital staff. 

WellSpan Health officials confirmed that the York hospital operated at above 100% capacity for multiple days as a result of the recent surge. The health care system has delayed all nonemergency care and has held patients in nontraditional rooms, such as pre-operative or post-operative bays. 

— Reach Erin Bamer at or on Twitter @ErinBamer.

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