COVID numbers remain steady even as concerns over RSV rise

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York County's COVID-19 numbers remains steady even as concerns grow over respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is sending more children to the hospital.

The county added 479 cases and six deaths in its latest update, according to state Department of Health data, bringing its pandemic totals to 138,503 and 1,596 respectively. That reflects a slight uptick from last week, when the county reported 441 cases and four deaths.

"COVID-19 infections continue, but we are fortunately not seeing a similar rise in admissions, ventilated patients or COVID-19 deaths," York City Health Bureau medical director Dr. Matt Howie said Thursday. "This is likely because of immunizations and previous infections providing sufficient immune protection so far."

Meanwhile, the county reported 35 COVID-related hospitalizations. Five of those patients were in the ICU, and two were on ventilators.

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Concerns remain about new variants that are spreading.

Established variant BA.5 still accounted for many of the new COVID-19 cases at 49.6% according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but variants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 accounted for 14% and 13.1% respectively.

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Howie said that the new booster for BA.5 seems to provide protection against the emerging variants as well. There's also a risk that COVID, the seasonal flu and RSV could all peak at about the same time.

"WellSpan Health has continued to see an increase in the number of pediatrics patients experiencing moderate to severe RSV symptoms in recent weeks," said Chris Russo, WellSpan York's director of pediatrics.

 City of York Medical Director Dr. Matt Howie speaks at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. The recent uptick in positive COVID-19 testing, specifically at York County Prison, was addressed. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The state Department of Health recently issued an advisory for RSV, noting that its statewide positivity rate — that is, the percent of those tested for RSV actually have the virus — was higher than would ordinarily be expected at this point during the flu season.

By the first week of October, the most recent data available, 37% of those tested were positive for the virus, according to the department. At the same point in 2021, that rate was 19%. In 2020, it was 25%.

Howie said RSV is putting a little strain on hospitals related to the relatively small amount of pediatric beds available.

"As with COVID-19, masks are a very effective source control to reduce spread of RSV virus," he said. "Also, if you are ill, please do not go to work or school as this increases the likelihood of spreading the infection."

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.