After spending months hovering at a consistent inpatient levels, Pennsylvania hospitals have seen a notable increase over the last month in the number of patients with COVID-19, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
There are currently 1,747 patients hospitalized due to COVID-19, nearly 50% more than the 1,215 patients that were in state hospitals and health facilities with a case of the virus at the beginning of December 2022. The current figure isn’t nearly enough to overwhelm hospitals, but it is a telling increase, especially since the biggest jump in patient totals came in the last week of the month.
Because of the nature of at-home testing for the coronavirus, both state and national totals for case counts are heavily deflated, health experts have said. Because of that, the primary data to look at is hospital levels and increases in the death toll. An increase of more than 500 patients statewide over a month is evidence enough that the three-year-old winter tradition of COVID-19 spread is back once again.
However, because of vaccines, the current omicron strains, better preparedness and pharmaceuticals, a case of COVID-19 is by and large not nearly as harsh. The level of hospitalizations are a perfect example of case-in-point. At this time last year, the state had roughly 6,000 patients hospitalized due to COVID-19, a staggering figure compared to today’s patient total.
Still, it’s likely now that cases are spreading at a fairly high rate given the patient-level increase throughout December.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, the Lehigh Valley’s hospitals are at manageable COVID-19 patient levels. There are currently 55 patients hospitalized in Lehigh County. Of those patients, 14 are in the ICU and seven are on a ventilator. There are 196 total ICU beds in the county.
Northampton County, simply by nature of Lehigh Valley hospital locations, has only 22 ICU beds, but there’s only one in use by a COVID-19 patient. The county has 20 COVID-19 patients hospitalized total.
In the last month, the Lehigh Valley as a whole recorded 48 deaths caused by COVID-19 — 28 in Lehigh County and 20 in Northampton County, bringing the counties’ respective totals to 1,349 and 1,206. The region amassed 48 deaths in just the first 11 days of December in 2021.
The state as a whole reported 647 deaths over the last month. In the same span the year before, that figure was over 3,000. The 647 deaths in December are just a slight uptick compared to the totals from previous few months.
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Connor Lagore may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.