COVID-19 surge impacting Geisinger

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Our region’s largest hospital chain says the worst is yet to come locally concerning COVID-19.

The alarming community spread could overwhelm hospital systems.

“We are seeing very concerning community trend and the spread is pretty prevalent in our communities,” said Dr. Jaewon Ryu, President/ CEO, Geisinger.

Dr Jaewon Ryu says Geisinger’s nine hospitals in Pennsylvania are stretched thin with the number of COVID patients.

“That demand we’ve seen since November 9 blows past where we were back in April and we are probably 40% or 50% past that at this point,” said Dr. Jaewon Ryu.

As disturbing as that is, the head of Geisinger believes this.

“The worst is still yet to come because those positive tests, as we’ve said all along, we’ve seen fairly consistently that within the week or two following that, the demand of hospital services also tends to follow and spike,” said Dr. Jaewon Ryu.

Late this summer, Geisinger saw a positivity rate less than 3%. Since then, the number has risen to more than 20%.

“What it suggests is that we have community spread, so it becomes even more critical to tackle all of the precautionary measures we have been talking about all along,” said Dr. Jaewon Ryu.

Precautions like wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing to help curb rising case counts like what’s happening in younger populations.

“Even if they do not fall severely ill with the virus, they could spread it to others if we are not following the precautions,” said Dr. Jaewon Ryu.

Rising hospitalization rates could leave healthcare facilities on the brink. Geisinger is seeing a far more dire situation than earlier this year when it cared for a new coronavirus patients every few hours.

“We are now seeing that happen once every hour, so you can get the sense that this thing is picking up steam in a way I don’t think any of us are happy about,” said Dr. Jaewon Ryu.

Geisinger says beds are filling at a “critically high” rate. The health system has scaled back surgical procedures by around 15% to allow space for people with COVID.

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