Local hospitals seeing younger COVID patients, more UK variant cases

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Penn State Health says it’s dealing with what it calls “micro-surges” at its hospitals. At this point in the pandemic, it’s largely among younger patients and other hospitals are also seeing the trend.

Penn State Health and WellSpan Health have both reported a slight increase in hospitalizations. UPMC Pinnacle says it saw a spike at the beginning of spring but is seeing signs of it slowing down. However, all three say the U.K. variant is now the predominant strain.

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“That has now emerged to be the number one variant that we’re seeing across the entire united states, especially on the east coast and in Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Mark Goedecker, Vice President and Regional Medical Director of WellSpan Health.

Health experts say the challenge is the big number of patients who tend to be younger and sicker.

“The spike that we’re seeing is in the 18 to 49-year-old category range,” said Dr. Peter Dillon, Executive Vice President and Chief Officer, Penn State Health.

However, experts say those cases aren’t as dire.

“We’re not seeing the ventilator cases but they are coming in much more symptomatic, needing oxygen therapy but not needing ventilator support,” said Dillon.

Experts say that’s because most of the older population already for at least one shot. Now it’s crucial for younger Pennsylvanians to sign up for the vaccine.

“Right now, it’s really a race between the vaccine and the variants,” said Dr. John Goldman, Infectious Disease Specialist at UPMC Pinnacle. “If you choose not to get the vaccine, you will get the virus.”

At one point, vaccine appointments were hard to come by but that’s not the case anymore.

“We do have appointments that sit empty at all of our locations which is unfortunate and we would love to get the community in,” said Julie Miller, Director of Ambulatory Systems at Penn State Health Medical Group.

All three doctors say the vaccines are effective against the U.K. variant. Penn State Health is not doing walk-in appointments yet but is planning for that in the future. It’s also offering the Pfizer vaccine to 16 and 17-year-olds.

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