COVID-19 isn’t taking a summer vacation as both new cases and hospitalizations rose this week in Erie County.
In fact, the average daily number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly doubled over the past two weeks from 14 to 27.9, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The good news is that few of those patients are critically ill, with an average of about seven a day in the intensive care unit and fewer than one a day needing a ventilator.
“We are seeing fewer hospitalizations with this surge than the previous ones and certainly fewer critically ill patients,” Christopher Clark, D.O., Saint Vincent Hospital president, said last week. “It’s more of a mild-to-moderate head cold with chest congestion for most people.”
The state health department doesn’t break down the percentage of hospitalized COVID patients who are admitted for other reasons but Erie hospital officials have said at least half of them are in the hospital for non-COVID issues.
Many of those hospitalized because of COVID symptoms are older than 75 and have chronic health issues like obesity, lung problems or diabetes.
BA.5 more transmissible but not causing COVID-19 deaths
No COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the county during the first 24 days in July, according to the county health department. There have been at least two COVID-19 deaths reported every month in the county since April 2020.
Still, a rise in cases and hospitalizations when schools are out and people tend to gather more outside shows how transmissible the BA.5 subvariant is when compared to previous versions of COVID-19.
“BA.5 has more characteristics that enable it to evade immunity from both vaccines and previous disease,” Charlotte Berringer, R.N., director of community health services for the Erie County Department of Health, said last week.
BA.5 is now the dominant COVID-19 strain in the county, accounting for 66.4% of all COVID virus found in Erie Wastewater Treatment Plant samples taken July 6.
The county also continues to see a rise in COVID-19 vaccinations, with a total of 1,317 given the week of July 18-24. It is the highest weekly total since early June.
A total of 59.4% of all county residents are fully vaccinated and 30.5% have received at least one booster shot, the county health department reported.
COVID-19 measurements for Erie County
Here is a look at the county’s other COVID-19 measurements between July 13-19 and July 20-26, according to the state health department:
- The rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents increased from 89.7 to 117.5.
- The positivity rate for COVID-19 tests rose from 18.5% to 22.1%.
- The average daily number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients increased from 19.6 to 27.9.
- The average daily number of COVID-19 patients requiring ventilators declined from 0.4 to 0.3.
- The percentage of emergency department visits due to COVID-19 symptoms dropped from 1.3% to 0.8%.
The rise in cases and hospitalizations moved Erie County into a medium COVID-19 Community Level, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. It means people at high risk for severe COVID-19 complications should talk with their doctor about wearing a mask and taking other precautions in public places.