Unvaccinated people, sick with COVID-19, flood midstate hospitals as delta variant surges

Two area health systems report that about nine in ten patients are unvaccinated.

  • Brett Sholtis

(Harrisburg) — WellSpan Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Aquilina says health system data tells a clear story across hospitals in Chambersburg, York, Ephrata, Gettysburg and elsewhere: 92 percent of COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

What’s not immediately clear in the data, some of which is publicly available, is the breakdown of which patients are dying from the virus.

“Reassuringly, none of our hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were vaccinated, in the month of August, none of them passed away,” Aquilina said. “They all survived the illness.”

The same can’t be said for unvaccinated patients, Aquilina said, though he didn’t have August’s death toll on hand. WellSpan data show just over 1,000 people have died at those hospitals since the pandemic began. Just over 7,500 have been hospitalized at those locations.

With 45% of Pennsylvanians unvaccinated, Aquilina said the health system has seen a surge in patients over the past month. Those patients fit a different description than in previous surges. They’re younger, with an average age of 60 — about 10 years younger than the average patient prior to mass vaccination efforts. Some patients are in their 30s.

Across the state, hospitalizations are up about 314% from one month ago, Pennsylvania Department of Health data show. Statewide, about 1,600 people were hospitalized with the virus Wednesday.

At Danville-based Geisinger Health System, that number is a bit higher, said Infectious Disease Director Dr. Stanley Martin.

Martin said some Geisinger hospitals have been pushed near capacity in recent weeks. He added that preparations have made hospitals adequately prepared to deal with these surges.

He said about 88% of COVID-19 patients there were not fully vaccinated.

Still, Martin said the influx of younger patients sick with COVID-19 challenges health care workers’ morale as they try to help them, more than 18 months into the pandemic.

“Particularly people who are unvaccinated coming into the hospital and dying from COVID,” Martin said. “Because we think to ourselves, this could have been prevented, this person didn’t have to die, they could have been vaccinated.”

 

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Up Next
Health

Immunity to COVID-19 could last longer than you'd think