Erie County learned yet again last week that COVID-19 doesn’t just threaten the lives of old and chronically ill people.
Two COVID-19 patients in their 30s died Friday at Saint Vincent Hospital. It’s the first time two COVID-19 patients that young died at the Erie hospital on the same day.
Saint Vincent also saw its youngest critically ill COVID-19 patient of the pandemic last week.
Patient privacy laws prevented Saint Vincent officials from providing the young patient’s age, but Erie County Department of Health Director Melissa Lyon said one of the local hospitals treated an infant with COVID-19 who needed a ventilator.
“I can say we had a pediatric COVID patient last week who we immediately had to transfer to Pittsburgh from our emergency department,” said Christopher Clark, D.O., Saint Vincent president. “This patient was too young for the vaccine.”
COVID-19 vaccines are available to children 5 and older.
The two young adults who died at Saint Vincent on Friday were also unvaccinated. Their deaths illustrate the importance of being fully vaccinated, Clark said.
“Unvaccinated people are at a greater risk of being hospitalized and dying due to COVID,” Clark said. “Even people in their 30s.”
Erie County hospitals continue to treat almost as many COVID-19 patients as they have at any time during the pandemic. The county’s 14-day moving average of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped slightly Tuesday to 116.3.
At its highest points, the county had an average of 122.6 patients on Dec. 18, 2020, and 122.5 patients on Dec. 3, 2021.
“We have seen a mild reprieve at UPMC Hamot, but we are always full,” said Emily Shears, vice president of quality for UPMC in northwestern Pennsylvania and New York. “We have the ability to care for people, but we are very busy with COVID patients and other patients.”
Hamot and Saint Vincent expect COVID-19 hospitalization numbers to continue to plateau at a high level because the daily number of new cases remains so high.
Erie County reported 180 new cases Tuesday. The previous daily totals included 118 on Monday, 140 on Sunday and 293 on Saturday.
“And we expect those numbers to go up with the holidays approaching,” said Charlotte Berringer, R.N., director of community health services at the county Health Department. “If you and your family are fully vaccinated and boosted, go ahead and socialize freely. If not, I strongly encourage you to wear a mask when celebrating with people who don’t live in your household.”
Mask mandate continues for Erie County schools
Students and staff at Erie County’s public and private schools must continue to wear face masks at least through the end of the year, despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday overturning a similar statewide mask mandate.
The county’s mask mandate for schools, which was issued separately from the statewide one, will remain in effect “until further notice,” Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper announced Monday in a news release.
“Until I leave office on Jan. 3, the mask mandate will stay in place,” Dahlkemper said Tuesday. “I don’t know what will happen after that.”
Erie County Executive-elect Brenton Davis told the Erie Times-News on Monday that he plans to give local school districts the power to implement their own mask and mitigation policies when he takes office Jan. 3.
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