Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center

Conemaugh Health System’s Memorial Medical Center campus is shown in this file photo from Oct. 2, 2013.

Although COVID-19 hospitalizations dipped slightly on Thursday, the state’s top doctor says the situation remains formidable.

“Our hospitals and health systems in Pennsylvania are significantly challenged due to COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.

Average COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased by 5,200 since late September, Levine said during a press briefing.

There were 6,209 COVID-19 patients in Pennsylvania hospitals on Thursday – down by 137 patients since Wednesday. They included 1,246 in intensive care units and 745 on ventilators or breathing machines. On Wednesday, there were 1,238 in ICUs and 740 on ventilators, the Department of Health online dashboard showed

In Cambria, Blair, Somerset and Bedford counties, Thursday’s report showed 264 COVID-19 patients, including 28 in ICUs and 26 on ventilators. On Wednesday, it was 288 COVID-19 patients, with 25 in ICUs and 23 on ventilators.

'Bed capacity is fluid'

The dashboard showed there were no ICU beds available in Cambria County on Thursday, but a Conemaugh Health System statement said Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center is able to handle more COVID-19 patients. Conemaugh operates the only two hospitals in Cambria County: Conemaugh Memorial and Conemaugh Miners medical centers.

“Like most hospitals, our bed capacity is fluid – changing nearly hourly,” the statement said. “While we have seen an increase in critical care and ventilator-dependent patients the last few weeks, we currently have capacity to care for additional critical care patients.

“Conemaugh is making every preparation we can to meet the demands of the community and plan for continued surges in COVID-19 cases. The hospital has the flexibility to provide intensive care in other areas.”

The health system urged the public to continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We encourage the community to please wear masks, maintain social distancing and limit exposure to others,” the statement said. “We all have a role to play in ensuring that our community remains healthy and that everyone here has access to the care they need.”

'Start of the road out'

Commending the state’s hospitals for efficiently launching employee vaccination programs even while dealing with a surge in COVID-19 patients, Levine also stressed the importance of continued vigilance until the vaccine is widely distributed.

“While we are at the start of the road out of this pandemic – our light at the end of the tunnel – but the path is long and it will take time,” Levine said. “In the meantime, we absolutely cannot overwhelm our hospitals anymore. Mitigation efforts that we have in place are absolutely needed to get us through this very challenging time.”

Cambria County had 115 additional COVID-19 cases and nine deaths in Thursday’s update by the health department.

There were 9,966 new cases and 224 additional deaths across the state, bringing Pennsylvania’s totals to 529,335 cases and 13,392 deaths associated with COVID-19.

Somerset County added 72 cases, Blair County had 93 new cases, Bedford County had 22 new cases, Indiana County had 16 new cases, Clearfield County had 53 new cases, Centre County had 103 new cases and Westmoreland County reported 397 additional cases Thursday.

Westmoreland added nine deaths on Thursday. Blair, Indiana and Centre counties each reported five new deaths and Bedford and Somerset counties each reported two new deaths.

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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