York County schools break grim COVID-19 records in the week since winter break

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch

COVID-19 cases spiked in York County schools in the first week back from winter break as the omicron variant continues its high spread throughout the county. 

York County's 16 public school districts logged 623 new cases that week alone, more than 200 cases above the previous record high for weekly cases. To date this school year, local schools have recorded 5,453 cases.

All public schools were closed Friday because of snow, but so far none of the districts in York County have announced extended closures into next week because of COVID-19.

More:Eight York County libraries close in-person browsing due to COVID-19

More:Strike team's stint in York could be extended amid growing COVID-19 outbreak

More:COVID-19 surge spurs differing hospitalization rates among children

York County recorded 1,465 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and Sunday for a total of 94,303 cases since the pandemic began. Five deaths occurred over the weekend, for a total of 1,244 in the county.

Though some of the school-related cases recorded this week likely included infections that started over the winter break, there is still evidence of a higher level of transmission in schools. 

Cases have been rising in York County schools since mid-December, which saw daily cases break past 100 for the first time this school year. Since then, there have been multiple days when new cases reached triple digits. 

Local schools have already nearly doubled the total caseload from the 2020-21 school year as they finish the first semester of the 2021-22 year. At this rate, York County's schools will more than triple last year's total by the summer. 

Other institutions, such as York County Libraries, have taken measures to mitigate the spread. On Thursday, the organization announced that eight libraries would shut down in-person browsing until further notice, operating only through pickup and online services. 

At WellSpan York Hospital, demand for care is high enough to warrant a 23-person federal strike team. The team arrived Monday to help the facility, which has been working above capacity due to the surge. York is one of two locations in Pennsylvania to receive the aid.

The team was originally sent to help the hospital for 30 days, but at a Thursday news conference, officials confirmed the timeline could extend if hospitalization rates continue to rise. WellSpan CEO Dr. Roxanna Gapstur said she expects cases to rise as a result of the omicron variant and recent holiday gatherings, further straining the health system. 

"The pandemic is once again changing shape," Gapstur said. 

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Catherine Parchinski, a clinical nurse assigned to Joint Base San Antonio- Fort Sam Houston, Texas, prepares her patient’s medication while in support of COVID response operations at WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital in York, Pennsylvania, Jan. 2, 2022. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to the whole-of-government COVID response. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ashleigh Maxwell)

York Hospital had 208 patients hospitalized with COVID as of Saturday. The rest of the WellSpan Health system is also seeing a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 482 patients across all facilities, including eight at WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital in York Township.

All hospitals in the county had 275 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Sunday. Of those patients, 51 adults were in the ICU and 39 were on ventilators, according to the state Department of Health.

York County COVID-19 data as of Jan. 7, 2022.

York County has the highest daily cases per capita among its four neighboring counties, at 220 daily cases per 100,000 people, according to The New York Times. However, the rate of COVID-19 spread in York County is lower than in several of its neighbors:

  • York County: 62% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Lancaster County: 157% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Adams County: No increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Cumberland County: 95% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Dauphin County: 204% increase in cases over the last 14 days

Across Pennsylvania, the case total increased to 2,240,549 on Sunday. The state reported a new death toll of 37,642 since the start of the pandemic, according to the state Department of Health. 

You can keep track of your district's recorded cases for the 2021-2022 school year here. We will continue to update on a daily basis as numbers change.