WellSpan will require employee vaccinations or testing as COVID cases rise

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 will require all employees in patient care areas to either get vaccinated or submit to testing every two weeks due to an increase in hospitalizations.

The health system stated that it has recently seen a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations — from 20 patients on July 19 to 95 on Monday. The updated guidelines will begin on Sept. 12, and the announcement came the same day as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified York County as having a "high" COVID-19 transmission rate.

WellSpan officials declined to comment when asked how many employees have already been vaccinated.

“The Delta variant of COVID-19 is taking hold nationally, and we must all take decisive action now before it gains an even stronger foothold in our communities and our facilities,” said Dr. Anthony Aquilina, executive vice president and chief physician officer for WellSpan Health in a statement.

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In addition to the updated vaccination and testing guidelines, WellSpan will continue with masking and health screenings for employees, patients, support persons and approved visitors.

The health system will also update its visitation guidelines for facilities operating in "level yellow," which as of Monday included all WellSpan facilities.

Under that classification, only one support person is permitted to visit each patient.

The updated guidelines do not apply to patients with COVID-19 or who are under investigation for COVID-19, where visitation is not allowed unless the patient is nearing the end of their life, among other exceptions that can be found here.

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Between Aug. 6. and Thursday, York County averaged 35 daily hospitalizations related to COVID-19, according to the state Health Department. That's an 14% increase over the previous seven-day period, when the number was 21.

Local health officials have said that the delta variant, the most contagious form of COVID-19, has made its way into York and other counties throughout the state.

They've also emphasized that vaccinations are the most effective action residents can take to fend off the variant, or at least protect against more serious symptoms if breakthrough cases occur.

WellSpan Health has administered more than 375,000 vaccine doses in total, according to officials. Since June, more than 98% of WellSpan's COVID-19-positive patients were not fully vaccinated.

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