Pa. Covid-19 data follows recent trends in South Africa, UK, but hospitals remain busy

While Allegheny County’s numbers are still heading in the wrong direction, covid-19 numbers released across Pennsylvania are in line with predictions that the United States may be approaching the downward curve of the recent surge caused by the omicron variant.

In Allegheny, the weekly average for hospitalizations is up about 6% from a week ago and 60% over the past month. In Westmoreland, the seven-day average is down 5% from last week and nearly 20% from last month, according to OpenData PA, which tracks covid-19 news.

In the Excela Health system, around a third of staffed beds are full of covid patients, according to chief medical officer Dr Carol Fox.

“We continue to see a high number of positive test results,” Fox said. “The number of covid-positive patients in the hospital varies from day to day, but we have not yet seen a significant drop.”

Statewide, 18,955 new covid cases were reported on Friday — 15,225 confirmed by PCR tests and 3,730 by rapid tests. That means the one-week average for Pennsylvania has dropped for five straight days, to an average of 20,123 new cases per day.

Over the past week, the state reported 140,863 new cases, a sharp drop from nine days ago, when Pennsylvania recorded more than 200,000 new cases in the same time frame.

And while Allegheny County’s hospitalization average has increased, there have been 16,061 new cases over the past week — up from a seven-day high of 24,735 cases from Jan. 6-12.

Omicron wave crest?

The local drop in cases generally resembles the covid situation over the past two weeks in countries like South Africa and the UK, where health officials say they have reason to believe the omicron wave may have peaked and is declining.

At the same time, experts warn that much is still uncertain about how the next phase of the pandemic could play out, according to The Associated Press. The plateau or ebb in the US and the UK is not happening everywhere at the same time or at the same rate. And weeks or months of misery lie ahead for overwhelmed patients and hospitals, even if the dropout materializes.

“There are still a lot of people who will get infected as we go down the slope in the back,” Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas Covid-19 Modeling Consortium, told the AP. The consortium predicted that reported cases would peak on Thursday.

Across the UPMC health system, spokesman Rick Pietzak said they are seeing the second highest spike in covid hospitalizations since last winter.

“However, we have fewer hospitalized patients on ventilators than this time last year,” he said. “While all UPMC facilities are operating at or near capacity, we remain open and there for all of the communities we serve.”

Across its system in the United States, UPMC is treating 1,066 hospitalized patients with covid-19, including 473 in southwestern Pennsylvania.

In the Allegheny Health Network system, there are 301 patients hospitalized with covid, including 38 in intensive care.

“Like all healthcare providers in the region and most parts of the country, AHN is facing a staffing shortage,” spokeswoman Stephanie Waite said. “From a staffed bed perspective, all of our hospitals are at or near capacity.”

Falling mortality

Over the past week, Pennsylvania has reported 936 new covid-related deaths, including nearly 600 in the past two days.

But overall the numbers are down from last year. On Friday, 1,757 covid-related deaths have been recorded so far in January, compared to 2,410 the week of January 21, 2021. There were 3,335 covid-related deaths reported for December 2021, almost half the number deaths in December. 2020.

The Allegheny County covid website added 74 covid-related deaths last week, while the state’s OpenData PA website reports only 54. The two sources have never matched consistently for the pandemic. No reason was given for the discrepancy. The county health department reports a total of 2,799 residents have died from covid, compared to 2,885 the state reports.

Health systems remain frustrated with the number of unvaccinated covid cases they are seeing.

“Across UPMC, 75% of people hospitalized with covid-19 have not been vaccinated,” Pietzak said. “Most of the rest are over 65 or have other serious conditions that limit their immunity.”

UPMC officials said unvaccinated people infected with covid-19 are 7 to 10 times more likely to require intensive care than those who are vaccinated.

“People fully vaccinated – including a booster – and communities with high vaccination rates are simply safer from death or severe illness from Covid-19,” Pietzak said.

Patrick Varine is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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