COVID-19 admissions at Lancaster County’s largest hospital have fallen to their lowest level since the first week of the pandemic at the same time that fewer people here are dying from the contagious virus.
But experts warn the positive trends could reverse if cold weather leads to greater transmission at indoor gatherings.
“We’re preparing for a second wave,” county coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said. “Everybody hopes we won’t see that, but based on what I have read and seen, we certainly could.”
Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital on Tuesday morning had only seven COVID-19 inpatients, the lowest number since March 28. Only two of the seven were on ventilators.
The hospital’s caseload was in the teens for most of September, in the twenties at the end of August and in the forties for parts of May and June.
Coronavirus admissions at the hospital reached 54 on May 27.
WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital reported only three coronavirus inpatients on Tuesday. The number at UPMC Lititz was not immediately available.
Death rate falls
Meanwhile, the coronavirus-related death toll in Lancaster County reached 425 on Monday after eight days without a death, the longest stretch of no deaths since the first patient died March 26.
The daily death toll peaked at 15 on April 22.
Nearly 88% of the deaths have occurred in people age 70 and older.
“Our community’s increased diligence in social distancing, using masks, and taking steps to minimize the spread and exposure to the virus are likely driving the lower hospitalization rates,” said Dr. Michael Ripchinski, chief clinical officer at LG Health.
The health system continues to oversee contact tracing to alert people who may have been exposed to someone who tested positive.
A total of 35 tracers have so far contacted 2,646 people about possible exposure. The hospital reports no instances of big gatherings here resulting in numerous cases.
The total number of confirmed cases stood at 7,607 on Tuesday. New cases averaged 36 per day over the past week.
“If we can continue our efforts in the county to reduce community spread of COVID-19, we can keep the transmission and hospitalization rates low,” Ripchinski said. “We remain cautiously optimistic as we head into cold and flu season.”