While the area healthcare workers struggle with increased numbers of COVID-19 cases, vaccine help is on the way.
Andrew Kurtz, System Director for Retail Pharmacy Services and Vaccination Lead for Penn Highlands Healthcare, said at a teleconference today that he expects the Pfizer vaccine to arrive in the next couple of weeks and that the first batch will be given to the front line employees at Penn Highlands. More of the vaccine, including the Moderna vaccine, is expected to arrive shortly thereafter.
Just when the general public could begin to get the vaccine is not immediately know, but the Centers for Disease Control said it could come in the first or second quarter of 2021 after it is given to front line workers and those at high risk.
“This could all change, as there are many factors for this to happen, so I recommend monitoring the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites to stay updated on this information,” Kurtz said.
Dr. Shaun Sheehan said that as of December 7, there were 80 COVID-19 patients under care across the Penn Highlands facilities. He added that since the pandemic started this past March, there have been close to 20 deaths in the PHH system.
Dr. Sheehan also addressed the the process of diverting patients from one hospital to another. He said sometimes emergency medical services (EMS) are asked to divert to another hospital for several reasons, including equipment failure or for overcrowding. He added that this is not a mandate and that EMS units can still bring unstable patients to the closest healthcare facility. He added that a situation like this usually mitigates itself within two to four hours.
At the last teleconference, PHH announced that it was offering rapid tests for COVID-19 at its Q-Care facilities. Mark Norman, PHH Chief Operating Officer, said those tests are still available, especially for those who are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to someone who tested positive. He said the facility has an adequate number of tests available.
On December 8, the State Department of Health announced there had been 10,170 new COVID-19 cases statewide, including 77 in Jefferson County, 34 in Elk County, and 119 in Clearfield County.