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COVID-19 deaths spike in York County even as cases fall

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch

Although new COVID-19 cases in York County have been steadily declining, the county's death rate is not following suit. 

The county reported 690 new cases and 13 new deaths on Thursday, according to the state Department of Health. That brings the pandemic totals to 112,082 cases and 1,350 deaths in the county. 

York County continues to see declining case rates after reaching unprecedented numbers in early January that regularly rose above 1,000 new cases per day.

Although the variant generally results in less severe symptoms, omicron is highly contagious compared with other strains, contributing to the now rising death toll. York City Medical Director Dr. Matthew Howie predicted the trend last week. 

The increase in deaths could also be attributed to the county's low vaccination rate. Only about 53% of York County residents are fully vaccinated, according to the state. That figure is 75% statewide.

Vaccination rates are expected to rise soon throughout all of Pennsylvania. Thursday was the deadline for a federal vaccine mandate for health care workers in about half the states in the country, including Pennsylvania. 

According to an Associated Press report, while the requirement is welcomed by some, others fear it will worsen already serious staff shortages if employees quit rather than comply.

“There absolutely have been employee resignations because of vaccination requirements,” Catherine Barbieri, a Philadelphia attorney at Fox Rothschild who represents health care providers, told AP. But “I think it’s relatively small.”

Pennsylvania as a whole surpassed 40,000 pandemic deaths overall Thursday, with an exact death toll of 40,257 since the start of the pandemic, according to the state Department of Health. The state has logged 2,622,134 total cases. 

WellSpan Health has seen COVID-19 hospitalizations drop dramatically across all facilities over the last week. As of Wednesday, the health system had 404 COVID-19 patients, down more than 100 since peaking at over 500 earlier this month. York Hospital had 176 patients as of Wednesday. 

WellSpan officials have confirmed numerous times that most of their COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. 

According to the state Department of Health, county hospitals had an overall total of 209 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday. Of those patients, 33 adults were in the ICU, and 30 were on ventilators.

READ MORE: What we know about the new COVID-19 variant BA.2 spreading in the U.S.

York County has the highest daily cases per capita among its four neighboring counties, at 149 daily cases per 100,000 people, according to The New York Times. However, the county is seeing a decreasing rate of new cases, at a level on par with its immediate neighbors.

  • York County: 39% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • Lancaster County: 53% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • Adams County: 33% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • Cumberland County: 16% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • Dauphin County: 46% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • Philadelphia: 64% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • New York City: 75% decrease in cases over the last 14 days

READ MORE: It's time to supply everyone with free N95 masks — and for us to use them, too

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

Schools: Meanwhile, York County's 16 public school districts recorded 114 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total for the 2021-2022 school year to 8,440.  

New cases have taken a slight dip in most local schools. However, a handful of districts continue to see high caseloads each day, driving up the total for the rest of the county. 

York County schools have already nearly tripled the total number of COVID-19 cases that were reported throughout all of the previous school year. At this rate, schools will easily surpass 10,000 cases before summer break, and could reach 15,000 cases if the high transmission levels continue. 

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.