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‘Concerning’ case numbers lead to capacity issues

DANVILLE — “The bottom line is that we are entering a critical juncture,” Dr. Jaewon Ryu, Geisinger CEO and president, said in a press briefing on Friday afternoon. “The leading indicators are at a significant point of rising. We can stem this tide. It is going to require all of us to work together. We have to remember to mask and avoid gatherings.”

Geisinger data shows concerning numbers including 23 to 25 percent of testing coming back positive and averaging over 540 positive tests coming back daily, systemwide.

“We are pleading with communities to take those precautions seriously,” Ryu said. “That is the only thing that will dampen these trends…doing this, we could literally save lives.”

He described the wave as “full-blown community spread.”

According to the latest numbers from the state Department of Health, Lycoming County is at 2,600 total confirmed cases and 47 deaths, while Clinton County is up to 850 total confirmed cases and 12 deaths.

Ryu also noted that hospitals within the system are “running pretty full” in terms of ICU and hospital in-patient capacity.

“We have learned to get pretty predictive,” he said.

Based on the information and predictions of Geisinger professionals, capacity and positivity rates “do not look good” in the next coming weeks.

“Whether you are a COVID patient or not, (capacity) impacts the care we are able to deliver,” Ryu continued. “This explains why we reinstituted visitor restrictions, screenings, requiring masks across all campuses…through doing these things we are still able to maintain a safe environment.”

Non-emergent procedures have also been “dialed down” not only to preserve capacity but also because Ryu had said that many Geisinger employees have personally been affected by the virus and are out on quarantine.

“(The staff) need your help as well,” Ryu said. “Our employees are nothing more than reflections of the communities we live in.”

He said that the positivity rate within employees is much lower than that of the surrounding communities, but it still presents a level of concern.

Ryu also believes that the recent Thanksgiving holiday is also a contributing factor to the resurgence.

Though the exciting news of two new vaccines hopefully coming, Ryu said that it is also “difficult to know” what vaccine will be available and more prominently, when it will be accessible to the general public.

He predicts that a vaccine will be starting to be available within the next coming weeks, but it won’t be available to the general public.

“We have to be realistic,” he said.

He also continued by saying that Geisinger has been working on the necessary storing and distribution mechanisms for the Pfizer vaccine.

Lastly, Ryu really urges readers to continue to mask and avoid gatherings with people who are not in your immediate household.

“One in four people are testing positive,” he added.

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