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Geisinger CEO: Infection rate concerning

DANVILLE — Geisinger President and CEO, Dr. Jaewon Ryu, still remains concerned with “alarmingly high rates” of COVID-19 infection and hospitalizations as well as the variant and sites running up against capacity issues.

Though Ryu and other local healthcare professionals are “excited” with the ever-growing vaccinations, which are now available to local EMS and nursing home staff, he still urges people to prepare to get the vaccine and maintain all mitigation measures: masking, social distancing and hand hygiene.

“This is not the end,” he said. “We are still months away from being able to gradually return to normal. The rates keep us very concerned and on our toes.”

Additionally, Ryu said that many of Geisinger’s sites are at capacity not only bed wise but also staff– many staff members are out for quarantine or other reasons. By using Geisinger’s “dimmer approach” to not perform non-emergent procedures, staff are able to free up around 90 beds for capacity. They are closely monitoring patients who have had to delay procedures.

14 percent of Geisigner hospitalized patients have died in December and an average of 400 people tested positive per day in the same month.

The positivity rate remains around the 23 percent mark with 36 percent of positive patients younger than 64.

“It is not uncommon for viruses to mutate over time,” Ryu said.

He added that this is definitely a concern but that there isn’t much change for treatments or prevention and encouraged existing mitigation measures.

“It can affect anyone. We are at a pretty critical juncture,” he continued. “We’ve added (a

preventative measure) — the vaccination. It is going to help the entirety of our communities.”

So far, Geisinger has vaccinated about half of their employees systemwide, 300 of which have already received the second dose, and hopes to have over 18,000 employees vaccinated sometime next week.

Out of those vaccinated at Geisinger, there have been no reports of adverse reactions.

Ryu said that some of the common side-effects included arm sensitivity and respiratory symptoms and that the rate of adverse reactions are one in 100,000.

“Even rare, it could happen. All of us as a community should be keely sensitive and caring about this,” Ryu said.

Anyone vaccinated at Geisinger has to be monitored for 15 minutes after the vaccination.

Vaccination allocations are said to be coming in regularly to Geisinger.

“We are really pleased with the momentum,” she said. “We need to keep the vigilance up.”

In other news, Ryu confirmed that the flu activity has not been as bad as other years and believes it to be due to the precautionary measures of masking and distancing.

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