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Philadelphia averages a record high of COVID-19 cases, but authorities hope the wave will reduce hospitalizations.Whole country

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Philadelphia — The 7-day average of new coronavirus cases in Philadelphia is the highest ever, as both the delta and highly contagious Omicron types have spread to the region.

As of Monday, the city has an average of 1,407 new cases per day, surpassing the previous record of 1,235 cases set on December 8, 2020.

“The concerns are very high,” said Patrick Kelly, a nurse in the intensive care unit at Einstein Medical Center. “More people are in contact with positive people. It’s the same as everyone you speak to.”

City officials say they believe the number of cases will continue to grow in the coming days and weeks. Most of these new cases were reported in the days leading up to Christmas, when many people attended the rally.

James Gallow, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Public Health Service, said: “They started this rise before we did, so I think it will still be some time before we reach its peak.”

Vaccine obligations will come into force for all food providers in Philadelphia, but no additional restrictions are currently planned, Garrow said.

Hospital surges are usually weeks behind the case surge, so some experts and officials said it wasn’t known until mid-January whether the hospitals would be overwhelmed.

“We still don’t know when the hospital will reach critical levels, but given that the number of people hospitalized with COVID has doubled in three weeks, we are very worried about the hospital. “Garrow said.

Early studies have shown that Omicron may be less likely to send people to the hospital, especially if vaccinated and boosted, but only a small percentage of infected people become very ill. Even so, the rate of spread of the variant can still overwhelm the provider.

The emergency department is already taxed and the waiting time at the municipal hospital is 4 to 6 hours. If the number of cases continues to grow, hospitals may need to reinstate emergency measures taken during the previous surge, such as canceling non-urgent procedures or converting other wards to ICUs.

Rohit Gulati, Chief Medical Officer of Einstein Health Systems, said: “But if that happens, that’s what we have to do.”

Einstein, the city’s most stressful hospital, has confirmed or suspected about 100 COVID-19 inpatients, he said. This is about one-third of the total capacity of hospital staff beds. Overall, hospital medical units are close to 100% capacity, Gulati said.

But doctors have already proved that this surge is far less deadly than its predecessor. Einstein’s ICU has as many as 10 COVID-19 patients at a time, compared to 50 or 60 a year ago, Gulati said. Currently, the hospital is also receiving treatments such as Merck and Pfizer antivirals.

“We have a few more tools and we learned a little more from our previous experience how to handle them,” Gulati said. “It’s a question of what percentage of the population gets sick.”

The recent surge in cases comes from the fact that Omicron spreads more rapidly than previous variants, avoids vaccine protection, and more people are being tested for the virus.

From December 20th to 22nd, more than 39,000 Philadelphians were tested on the city’s site. He listened to the advice of health authorities, including Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole, and urged family and friends to test before taking a vacation. Many others took a quick test at home, which is not mentioned in official records.

However, more tests alone cannot explain the jump in the positive case. In the seven days leading up to December 26, more than a quarter of the COVID-19 tests performed in the city returned positive compared to 5% of Thanksgiving week.

Disastrous records have also been set in the suburbs, with a seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 people reaching a pandemic high in both the suburbs of Pennsylvania and South Jersey. The average for South Jersey is the highest, with 110.8 cases per person.

According to the New York Times, hospitalizations in New Jersey have increased by 60% in the last two weeks and have been relatively flat in Pennsylvania over the same period. However, Pennsylvania has the third highest daily average of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the country.

The number of cases is increasing as hospitals are working on staff shortages and taking care of patients other than COVID-19.

“The number of cases is increasing,” said John Goldman, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “We see a recurrence of the flu, and after delaying treatment, people come back to the hospital and they Will get sick more than they do. “

In central and western Pennsylvania, some hospitals have reached or nearly reached capacity before Christmas.

On Tuesday, a spokesman said the Lehigh Valley Health Network was treating 330 COVID-19 patients in five hospitals. Only 3% of them were fully vaccinated and boosted, and no one needed intensive care.

Nichole Persing, Nursing Director of Patient Care Services, who manages the COVID-19 unit at System’s Sea Dark Rest Campus in Allentown, said: “You don’t have to do this.”

Locally, you can avoid some of the hospital burden. People who have not experienced severe COVID-19 symptoms unnecessarily go to the emergency room, Gulati said.

“We ask most people not to come, especially if they have mild symptoms,” he said.

Vaccinations and boosters are particularly protected from severe infections, medical experts say. This has the potential to support Philadelphia and its collar counties. Philadelphia and its collar counties are more vaccinated than many other parts of the state and have a higher proportion of beds available than the entire federation.

Lisa Omahoney, a medical adviser to Delaware County, said:

Except for Philadelphia, 59% of all Pennsylvania residents are fully vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer or Modana or one dose of Johnson & Johnson. However, locally, about 62% of Philadelphia is fully immunized and about 70% are in each Collar counties.

According to state data, about 30% of fully vaccinated Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia received booster shots, as did about 40% of New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy said last week.

Jennifer Horny, founder of the University of Delaware’s epidemiology program, said the impact of Omicron on mortality is unknown until the end of January, but is optimistic based on a preliminary analysis of the behavior of variants in South Africa. ..

“There are a lot of people in the hospital, but most of the vaccinated people don’t get seriously ill with Omicron,” said Horny. “If that continues, hopefully our next few weeks won’t look that bad.”

Public health experts emphasize that vaccination is the most effective tool for preventing hospitalization and death.

“The large number of mild cases of Omicron does not mean that vaccinations or boosters should not be considered as soon as they qualify,” Horny said.

Nearly 126 million unvaccinated Americans are at particularly high risk. Severe infections can only hit hospitals in a small part of the population, Gratty said.

And as the community grows, vaccination does not guarantee the safety of people at highest risk of serious COVID-19 infection, such as the elderly and those with weakened immunity. ..

Einstein’s nurse, Kelly, said: “They have some comorbidities, but I’m worried that they might be sick even with boosters.”

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© 2021 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC.Access to inquirer.com.. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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