Flu season worsens in York County — and it could get worse still

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York County reported another massive spike in new influenza cases Thursday amid the worst flu season on record nationwide.

And it could get worse still as people gather for Christmas and New Year's celebrations.

"We do anticipate holiday gatherings may lead to additional cases and potential hospitalizations for both COVID-19 and the flu in early January," said WellSpan Health spokesman Ryan Coyle.

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The county added 1,629 flu cases, according to the state Department of Health, bringing its total to 7,030. Statewide, the total sits at 124,258.

Pennsylvania's flu season came early this season. The one glimmer of hope is that, according to weekly statewide figures, the wave of infections that came after Thanksgiving appears to have crested elsewhere.

Pennsylvania's flu season came early this season. While York County reported its highest weekly count yet, the rest of the state's wave of infections appears to have crested.

While York County reported its highest weekly count yet, the rest of the state's wave of infections appears to have crested.

One week after the largest single-week increase in months, the county didn't report as heavy a number of COVID cases — though health officials say there's still a cause for concern.

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York County added 759 cases and four deaths, bringing its pandemic totals to 142,609 and 1,618 deaths. That's a reduction from last week's sharp increase of 1,480 cases.

"We'd like to remind patients that it is not too late to get a flu vaccine or schedule a COVID-19 booster to help protect yourself from becoming ill as we continue through the respiratory virus season and into the new year," said Dr. Mike Seim, WellSpan's chief quality officer. "The best protection from becoming ill is to practice good hand hygiene and to avoid contact with people if they are currently showing signs of an upper respiratory infection or if you are feeling ill."

Seim said the hospital system's hospitals aren't currently experiencing the type of capacity constraints seen during the surge of COVID earlier this year. The hospital system uses a system called WellTrack to communicate with regional health partners if there are inpatient capacity concerns.

FILE - A flu vaccine is readied at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans' Community Resource Center, Oct. 28, 2022, in Lynwood, Calif.  The Biden administration announced it will release doses of prescription flu medicine from the Strategic National Stockpile to states as flu-sickened patients continue to flock to hospitals and doctor's offices around the country. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

"WellSpan is also prepared to take steps to address any issues of patient volumes that may arise utilizing learnings from surges of the pandemic with each hospital having plans in place to expand bed counts, if that were to become necessary," Seim said.

Meanwhile, fewer people are getting the COVID-19 booster shots, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Only 36% of seniors 65 and older have gotten the latest booster compared to the 94% who received their initial COVID vaccine.

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“The evidence is clear: Even if you got the shot two years ago, your immunity has waned. But the people who most need to hear that have not,” Dr. Michael Wasserman, geriatrician and the public policy chair of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, told The New York Times. “When you combine pandemic fatigue with no real plan from the government together, what we have is a perfect storm.”

Almost 90% of COVID fatalities were by people 65 and older, according to CDC data.

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