Local health officials react to death toll

The nation hit an unsettling milestone. Half a million people have now died of COVID-19 in the United States.

“The loss of a life is immense, so hitting a milestone like this is something that reminds us of how serious this virus is,” Dr. Rutul Dalal, MD, medical director of Infectious Diseases and chairman of Infection Prevention and Control at UPMC in the Susquehanna region, said.

“While we’ve come a long way since the pandemic started, we still suffered greatly along the way.”

The virus, which has created additional complications including severe variants, is something that will continue to weigh on the minds of Americans for time to come.

According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden plans to hold a candle lighting ceremony and a moment of silence for those who were lost during this time.

“Everyone in our communities has been affected in some way by the pandemic,” Dalal added. “Everyone knows someone who has had the virus or lost someone to the virus — it is very sobering to consider. This pandemic is very real.”

“With the nationwide COVID-19 death toll tragically reaching half a million people, it shows how dangerous this virus continues to be,” Dr. Stanley Martin, director of Infectious Diseases at Geisinger, said.

Though we have had deaths in our area, neither Dalal or Martin disclosed how many deaths we have seen in the greater Williamsport area.

However, both did say that they have seen an “overall drop” in positivity rates and hospitalizations in this area and hope to see vaccination efforts evolve over time.

“Geisinger has 86 patients with COVID in our hospitals, down from more than 350 at the end of December,” Martin said.

“At UPMC in our region, we’ve seen a significant downward trend in inpatient volumes…especially those needing advanced levels of care like ventilators, since the peaks we had in the weeks following Thanksgiving of 2020,” Dalal said.

“As a healthcare provider, my life’s work is to help the sick heal and care for those in need…it’s the ones we lose that we remember most,” he continued. “They’re the ones who light the fire in us to continue to develop new treatments and ways to combat the pandemic, so that we may someday reach a point where no one has to suffer from this virus again.”

Dalal hopes that with more development in vaccination and with patience of the nation’s citizens, that a majority could be vaccinated in part to prevent the ongoing spread of the virus but also to help “return to normal…but we are not there yet.”

Until that time comes, both Dalal, Martin and other healthcare workers are continuing to urge everyone to stay inside, don’t gather with people outside of your households, social distance and wash your hands.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today