Delaware County Officials Urge Responsible Behavior Amid COVID Spike as Hospitals Fill to Capacity

County officials talk about spiking COVID case numbers during a Zoom press conference Nov. 12.

Delaware County officials joined with the Chester County Health Department Nov. 12 to put out a dire warning about spiking COVID-19 case numbers in the county.

“There is an alarming high spike in COVID-19 cases across the county, and even more alarming is the ways in which our county is being impacted,” Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek stated at the 2 p.m. press conference.

The county is approaching the highest number of outbreaks since the height of the pandemic in early April when there were 232 cases a day in Delaware County.

This week, the county is nearing that high point and has exceeded 200 new cases several times over the past seven days.  There were 214 new cases reported on Nov. 11.

With more COVID-19 cases more sick people need to be hospitalized. Essential healthcare workers are also testing positive creating a shortage of those workers to treat patients. The spike has also meant longer wait times in emergency rooms.

“It’s time that we all start heeding the advice of public health officials or we face a situation that none of us want to be in,” said Zidek.

On Monday, all Delaware County hospitals were forced to divert patients because they had reached capacity and/or did not have enough essential healthcare workers to treat patients.

Delaware County is also seeing spikes among first responders. Outbreaks are occurring with 911 dispatchers, police officers, firefighters and EMS workers, straining emergency services, leaving fewer personnel to take 911 calls and respond.

Public health investigators say a majority of cases are now coming from social gatherings in people’s homes, religious services, dinner parties, people not wearing masks in public, people returning to in-person work and larger events like weddings and funerals. Some cases can also be traced to children participating in extra-curricular activities.

“For months, there has been clear scientific guidance from public health experts to mitigate the virus,” Zidek said, commending the many individuals, businesses, schools  and organizations that have adapted to keep customers, staff and students safe.

He asked everyone to take a hard look at their activities.

“We all need to do the right thing. This doesn’t work if 50 percent are being responsible and the other 50 percent are going about their lives as though we’re not in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.

Chester County Health Department Director Jeanne Casner reported that Delaware County is following a national trend but pacing faster than anticipated going into the winter season.

She acknowledged the difficulty of maintaining health guidelines at small gatherings, especially with family.

“We feel comfortable in families removing masks, not observing six feet distance,” she said, even though that’s how you prevent virus spread.

Casner said the county wants to avoid a lockdown.

“And we’re really pleading with everyone to help us avoid it,” she said. Our goal is to stabilize those numbers, than in the spring push those numbers down. Right now, everything’s trending up,” she said.

Statewide, 5,488 additional positive cases were reported on Nov. 12, the highest daily increase of cases since the pandemic. Statewide total is now 248,856.

The county government has already made changes in response to the spiking case numbers.  Most in-person meetings are now virtual.

In-person staff will be reduced whenever possible, having them work virtually instead.

Employees and residents visiting County buildings are already screened and required to wear a mask and maintain a 6-foot distance, and these practices will  continue. County buildings continue to be dis-infected with extra attention to high-traffic areas.

The County is also offering public health guidance and support from the Chester County Health Department and financial support from CARES Act funding to businesses and schools struggling to meet health guidelines and survive the financial impact of the pandemic.

Video of the press conference can be found here.

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