Health official: COVID-19 cases, deaths on decline in York County

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
York Academy Regional Charter School teacher Keri Schmid shows second-grader Samiha Storms how to apply a COVID-19 test Thursday, Feb 4, 2021. School nurses, Megan Halloran, background left, and Marla Urey visited the classroom while students did the testing which is part of the new pandemic protocols implemented at the York City school. Bill Kalina photo

The rate of COVID-19 deaths is on a slow decline in York County, despite overall tolls rising to nearly half a million across the United States.

Following a holiday spike that overwhelmed local officials, February has been mild in comparison, according to Dr. Matt Howie, chief health strategist for York County.

Executive Director of the York Regional Opiate Collaborative Dr. Matt Howie. Submitted/photo

"We're seeing a downward trend in cases admitted to hospitals — and those are encouraging signs," he said, adding that the period around  the holidays contributed to the worst spike in cases and deaths officials had seen so far.

From Dec. 14 to Dec. 28, York County reported 83 deaths, which is nearly as many as in October and November combined, which had a total of 85 deaths.

Since the start of February, the death total has increased by 72, bringing the overall toll to 707.

On Sunday and Monday, state health officials reported no new deaths in  York County. During that time period, there were 123 new COVID-19 cases reported in the county, bringing the new total to 35,231.

Though on the decline, these numbers continue to frustrate local officials, including York County Coroner Pam Gay.

Gay said there are still ongoing struggles with capacity at the morgue she shares with WellSpan York Hospital.

"The morgue space was overflowing many times," she said. "We're constantly working with hospitals to move people out."

Howie added that protocol was implemented to expand the morgue capacity with portable cooling units — though the county has not yet had to use them.

Construction for a new morgue for the coroner's office, which recently moved into office space at York County Prison, is expected to finish in March, with a goal of opening in April, Gay said.

"It's very hard working with funeral directors and families trying to get people buried sooner," Gay said. "It would have been nice to have the morgue sooner, but I'm not going to complain. We need it — COVID or no COVID."

Though Gay and Howie acknowledge the numbers have slowly improved, the "end" of the pandemic is unclear.

With vaccines being rolled out, Howie said he's certain this year won't turn out like 2020 did. 

It won't quite be "normal," either, he added.

"We're seeing a measurable decrease in cases, but it's not like a magic corner was turned," Howie said. "I don't know if we're going to see the end of COVID for some time."

Statewide, there were 3,427 new cases of COVID-19 reported Sunday and Monday, increasing the total to 915,018. Additionally, the state reported 44  deaths for a new total of 23,614.

There have been 3,827,159 patients who tested negative for COVID-19, including 128,410 in York County, according to state data.

About 89% of patients have recovered.

More than 28.1 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 499,000 deaths linked to the disease.

Worldwide, there have been about 111.5 million confirmed cases and more than 2.4 million deaths.

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More:York County's urban center hardest hit by COVID-19

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.