York Hospital bans most visitors; York County outbreak among Pa.'s worst, state says

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Medical assistants Ashley Moody, left, and Angelica Young prepare to administer swab testing at the drive up COVID-19 coronavirus testing site at WellSpan Family Medicine - Cape Horn in Windsor Township, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Candidates must be directed to the facility for testing by a physician prior to arrival. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York Hospital on Friday banned most visitations amid a spike in reported COVID-19 cases in York County, WellSpan officials confirmed.

The move came as state officials for the first time acknowledged that York County has one of the highest positivity rates in Pennsylvania.

All visitations are prohibited at York Hospital except for people seeing end-of-life patients, patients in labor, those in the neonatal intensive care unit and patients — in some situations —who are minors or are mentally handicapped. Only one visitor is allowed, except in the NICU, where two parents or guardians are allowed.

In all cases, any visitors must wear masks and undergo health screenings.

"We continue to see positive cases in our community, and these temporary changes to our visitation policy at WellSpan York Hospital have been made to ensure our patients have a safe environment to receive the care they need and our staff have a safe working environment," said WellSpan spokesperson Ryan Coyle.

As of Sunday, York County's average single-day increase in COVID-19 cases throughout August was 37 — a 54% increase over July, when York County averaged 24 cases per day and ended the month with 745 total cases.

Case numbers are on track to more than double the averages seen in June, May and March, and nearly double April's average of 19, according to state data.

At 850 cases by Sunday, August has already had the highest number of cases of any month on record — which state officials have attributed to community spread.

There were 34 positive or suspected positive patients in York Hospital as of Friday, where the positive testing rate was 7.3%.

That's about 2% higher than the countywide average of 5.5%, which is already seventh highest among Pennsylvania's 67 counties, said state Health Department spokesperson Nate Wardle.

"York County has one of the highest percent positivity in the state," he said.

In the last seven days, the county has seen 52 cases per 100,000 people, Wardle added.

The hospital has seen 45 deaths among COVID-19 patients since the outbreak began.

Dr. Matt Howie, medical director at the York City Health Bureau, said he did not want to speak to WellSpan’s individual decision, but from what the health bureau has seen, the county’s hospitals seem to be managing the increase in cases.

“We have not seen a big surge of hospitalizations immediately,” Howie said. “Certainly there are a significant number of cases. But it’s been within the system’s ability to absorb that quantity at this point.”

WellSpan does not provide data such as the percentage of beds or ventilators in use. The state Health Department, however, does report countywide data.

About 26% of all the 184 ventilators in the county are in use, according to the department.

In addition, the following percentage of beds were occupied: 82% of adult ICU beds; 86% of medical and surgical beds; 32% of pediatric beds and 75% of airborne isolation beds.

There were no pediatric ICU beds available.

As of Sunday, there were 3,119 cases of COVID-19 in York County and 114 deaths linked to the disease.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.