Penn Highlands Healthcare officials express concern over increase of Covid-19 cases, urge residents to get vaccinated

Officials with Penn Highlands Healthcare (PHH) held a teleconference today (September 21) with area media representatives to discuss the ongoing Covid 19 crises.

Mark Norman

Mark Norman, PHH Chief Operating Officer, said like other hospitals across the nation, PHH has seen an increase of positive Covid 19 cases. He said a month ago, PHH facilities were treating a handful of in-patient cases per day. Now that number has grown to almost 40 cases per day.

“Sadly, most of these patients who have not been vaccinated are suffering, and even some dying,” he said. “Our team of doctors and staff across the region have witnessed patients of all ages–in their 20s to their 90s—dying, and many of these people may have been saved or had an easier fight had they received the vaccine.”

COO Norman urged area residents to get vaccinated and take safety precautions, including wearing a mask, washing hands, social distancing, and avoiding large crowds. He said 70% of PHH staff have been vaccinated. 

When asked about staff shortages, Norman said like all other businesses across the country, there are staffing issues and the PHH Human Resources Department is working hard to satisfy staffing needs.

“The number one thing that can help us is for more people to get vaccinated,” he said.

Chief medical Officer Dr. Russell Cameron said PHH has provided approximately 90,00 vaccines across the region and will continue to offer them. He said the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will announce booster shot information this week, but he expects they will be for those over 65, immunocompromised or those who are occupationally exposed to the virus.

“If the Covid-19 cases continue to grow, it could tax the available healthcare resources causing significant concerns to healthcare…It is vital that everyone gets vaccinated and to follow the safety precautions…,” Dr. Cameron said. 

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, approximately 50% of Jefferson County residents have been vaccinated and 49.7% in Clearfield County. 68.7% of residents in the Commonwealth age 18 or older are fully vaccinated.

Because of the increase of Covid cases, Dr. Cameron announced that, following CDC guidelines, all Penn Highlands facilities will return to the earlier pandemic policy of one support person per patient per visit except for Neonatal Intensive Care Units and end of life situations. Masks are required at all PHH facilities.

In his closing comments, COO Norman said the top priority remains the safety of the PHH patients and staff.

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