coronavirus covid-19 illustration file photo cdc dark background

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals the structure of the novel coronavirus. The illness caused by this virus is COVID-19.

Updated on Jan. 10 at 4:28 p.m.

Lancaster County had 228 COVID-19 patients in its three hospitals Monday, up 18% from a week ago and marking the fifth-straight day of setting new pandemic records for hospitalizations.

The number of patients hospitalized was more than three times what it was just two months ago, when the tally was 72 on Nov. 10.

About 75% of the 146 COVID-19 patients at Lancaster General, the county’s largest hospital, are not fully vaccinated, including all but one of the hospital’s COVID-19 patients on ventilators, according to hospital data.

The surge of patients has led overburdened hospital systems in Pennsylvania to ask for additional help from the federal government. A federal strike team was approved two weeks ago to assist at WellSpan York Hospital, and Lancaster General said last week that it was weighing a similar request to support its overwhelmed staff.

“Our health system leadership is in ongoing contact with Department of Health and our local state legislators regarding COVID-19’s impact on our operations, and potential solutions, as we weigh all options to assist the staff in managing the volume of patient care,” Dr. Michael Ripchinski, LGH’s chief clinical officer, said Monday.

Despite the increase in total COVID-19 hospitalizations, the number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators declined slightly to 23 Sunday and Monday. The pandemic record for patients on ventilators is 29, last reached on Jan. 3.

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus, thought to be more contagious but less severe than previous strains of COVID-19, has been driving a sharp increase in county cases. The county’s average daily case rate hit 1,148 Sunday after surpassing 1,000 cases per day on Friday. Before the latest surge, the daily case average, measured over seven days, had peaked at about 429 per day in December 2020.

For the fully vaccinated, “the likelihood that Omicron will cause any serious lung injury is low,” said John Goldman, an infectious disease specialist at UPMC in Harrisburg. “The unvaccinated on the other hand will still run a good risk of having the virus running throughout your lungs which is more severe.”

The Lancaster County Commissioners on Wednesday will consider approving use of the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center in East Hempfield Township as a drive-through COVID-19 testing site for the next month. Lancaster General Health and the county's three other health care systems would be allowed to use the center for free to conduct COVID-19 testing, according to the draft agreement.

Forty-nine people in the county have died of COVID-19 this month, putting the county on track to record more deaths than the 134 it did in December 2021, which was the fourth-highest of the pandemic.

Gillian McGoldrick contributed to the reporting of this story.

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