WellSpan models: Third COVID-19 wave could hit in early 2021

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Signs at the entrances of the WellSpan York Hospital complex highlight the continued issues with the COVID-19 pandemic, Wednesday, November 11, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

WellSpan Health officials on Wednesday expressed concern that hospitals could become overwhelmed early next year if models predicting a third wave of COVID-19 are accurate.

The forecasts from some of the several models used by WellSpan to predict trends come as south-central Pennsylvania and the rest of the state are already trying to fend off a fall resurgence of COVID-19, which models show could recede over the holiday season.

A third wave in early 2021, though, would come during peak flu season, meaning the hospitals would have to juggle another surge in COVID-19 cases and the flu at the same time.

"Whether or not all of our health facilities in the region will have the capacity to deal with both is a question," WellSpan Health President Roxanna Gapstur said Wednesday at a media conference.

More:131 new cases of COVID-19 in York County on Wednesday

More:York County COVID-19 cases at all-time high; officials warn of fall resurgence

The daily number of new cases of COVID-19 in York County has smashed records repeatedly over the past week.

As of Wednesday, 131 new cases in York County — the second-highest increase on record — pushed its 14-day rolling average to 251 cases per 100,000 people, a new record.

On Wednesday, the state Health Department reported the highest number of new cases on record statewide.

Tony Aquilina, executive vice president of WellSpan Health, cautioned that models aren't foolproof. 

"We use several models and try to come up with a best guess," Aquilina said. "And some of the models have been off."

WellSpan officials said they are capable of handing patients in the current uptick, even as the numbers of cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. 

However, spokesperson Ryan Coyle would not detail the percentage of beds available specifically at York Hospital, saying "our response to this is going to involve all hospitals supporting one another as a unit."

WellSpan has been able to accommodate patients by utilizing other facilities, such as WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation in York Township, he said.

"I can tell you that WellSpan Health is currently utilizing just below 50% of its ventilators," Coyle added.

Hospitals can also share resources if that would become necessary, he said.

In York County as a whole, the availability of adult ICU beds is beginning to decline, according to state Health Department data.

About 11.5% of adult ICU beds were available throughout York County as of Wednesday. There were 7.7.% of surgical or medical beds, 57.9% of pediatric beds and 25.8% of airborne isolation beds open.

There were no pediatric ICU beds available.

In additional, 40 of the county's 96 ventilators were in use and 68 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized.

As of noon Wednesday, there had been 7,608 total cases of COVID-19 in York County since the outbreak began and 217 deaths linked to the disease. Statewide, there had been 243,368 cases and 9,145 deaths.

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