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Medicine and Health

Penn Highlands Reopens COVID-19 Unit In DuBois As Case Numbers Rise In Rural Counties And Statewide

Photo of the outside of the Penn Highlands DuBois hospital
Penn Highlands Healthcare
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Penn Highlands Healthcare, which has six rural hospitals in Central Pennsylvania, reopened its dedicated COVID-19 unit last week due to rising case numbers.

Penn Highlands Healthcare, which has six rural hospitals in Central Pennsylvania, reopened its dedicated COVID-19 unit last week due to rising case numbers, hospital administrators told reporters during a call Thursday.

The unit in the DuBois hospital was closed in May because it wasn’t needed as cases decreased, head of Penn Highlands Healthcare’s COVID-19 task force, Shaun Sheehan, said. 

Chief Operating Officer Mark Norman said, as of Thursday, “We have currently 20 inpatients who have tested positive for COVID-19 [and] are currently being treated at a Penn Highlands hospital safely and securely at this time.” That’s the highest number of COVID-19 inpatients across the Penn Highlands Healthcare system so far.

There are about 90 ventilators available across the healthcare system. The hospital said it can expand the number of patients treated in the special unit, and it has the capability to establish special units at other facilities if needed. 

Norman said there are no positive cases in either of the two nursing homes the system operates, where they continue to conduct weekly universal testing for residents and employees, as mandated by the state.

There are 5,488 new cases of the coronavirus reported in Pennsylvania Thursday, shattering previous records. The state Department of Health said several counties Penn Highlands serves, including Blair, Elk and Huntingdon, are experiencing substantial community spread.

Sheehan said the current trend in rising cases, coupled with the approaching winter season and holiday gatherings, is concerning. 

“Just from Halloween and Election Day, we’ve seen several local cases result in outbreaks,” he said.

He urged residents to comply with masking and distancing rules and to consider gathering in smaller groups for the holidays. He said these protocols are necessary to minimize spread and to avoid a complete lockdown.

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