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Wolf warns hospitals at risk, mulls new virus restrictions

Pennsylvania hospitals are at risk of being overrun with COVID-19 patients and might have to begin rationing medical care if the rate of spread does not slow, Gov. Tom Wolf warned Monday.

He said additional pandemic mitigation measures are under consideration because the ones already in place have not worked.

Wolf did not say what his administration is considering, but the Democrat all but ruled out a return to the kinds of statewide restrictions he imposed last spring, when schools were closed, thousands of businesses deemed non-essential were shut down, and all 12.8 million Pennsylvanians were under a stay-at-home order.

“The blunt instruments that we had to use to buy time back in March and April, we don’t need anymore. We can be much more targeted,” he said.

Still, Wolf said the pandemic picture has grown increasingly dire over the past two weeks, with sharp increases in new infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The rampant spread of the virus in all regions of the state means that resource-sharing agreements among hospitals could soon begin to break down, he said.

“I find myself here saying things I really, really wish I didn’t have to say. If we don’t slow the spread of this dangerous virus now, the reality is that COVID-19 will overwhelm our hospitals, will overwhelm our health care system,” Wolf said at a virtual news conference.

“If the worst happens, hospitals will not be able to treat all sick Pennsylvanians,” he said. “They’ll be forced to turn away people who need treatment, and that means more Pennsylvanians will die.”

The pandemic continues to exact a grim toll on Pennsylvania, even with the impact of Thanksgiving travel yet to be fully felt.

Hospitalizations are up tenfold since Oct. 1. Deaths have risen 85% in two weeks, to an average of 140 per day, according to an AP analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project.

Pennsylvania is averaging 9,000 new confirmed infections per day.

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