DuBOIS — Penn Highlands Chief Operating Officer Mark Norman provided an update on the number of inpatients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently being treated at a PHH hospital.

Norman, at its recent media teleconference, reported the number of cases by region. In the Tyrone and Huntingdon regions, he said they had 10 COVID-19 patients. In the Brookville, Clearfield, DuBois and Elk region, PHH was treating 35 COVID-19 patients.

“As most businesses and organizations, we have had some employees test positive for COVID-19,” said Norman. “We’re very appreciative of our staff in always putting our patients first, and following our safety protocols and procedures that we have in place. We ask that employees report any symptoms they have immediately. They get their temperature checked regularly, wear a mask and other protective equipment. And also following the safety precautions and protocols that we set in place beginning of the pandemic.”

Dr. Shaun Sheehan, Penn Highlands Healthcare’s Emergency Services Medical Director and leader of PHH’s COVID-19 Task Force, discussed some of the COVID-19 statistics currently being reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health as well as the treatment of the coronavirus.

“Let’s start with how many asymptomatic carriers are out there,” said Sheehan. “This is still happening as we speak, so that data has not been fully figured out. There’s some papers that show as low as 17 percent, and some papers that I’ve seen as high as 81 percent. So I think that we need some more time to pass, and additional studies to go on, before we can make a better estimate of what that number is.”

Early in the treatment of COVID-19, it was thought that people needed to be on the ventilator quickly, said Sheehan.

“And we had very limited pharmaceuticals to utilize to help people once they became sick,” said Sheehan. “With time passing, we now know that dexamethasone, remdesivir are the top therapeutics that we’d want to use. We have found that flipping (people) upside down while they’re on a ventilator, helps them recover faster. We want to keep them off the ventilator as long as possible now, instead of putting them on the ventilator early in the course. As it turns out, that this may cause some ... injury to your lungs. And then finally, monoclonal antibodies are still being studied. And we’ll see what those results show the next couple of weeks.”

When asked to comment on the number of people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 versus the number recovered, Sheehan said, “I think why there’s a lot of conflict in some of these numbers that you may see one day, and they may be different the next day is, this was an unknown situation. Frankly, it gets down to knowing how would a researcher know that somebody was affected and recovered if the person themselves didn’t even know they were infected? So that’s the first question to ask. And we don’t know that for sure.”

What Sheehan can tell people is that, for the most part, people do well.

“But there is a chance of healing having a rougher course, and that’s related to comorbid factors like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and unfortunately age,” said Sheehan. “The more comorbid factors you have, the more likely you are to get sick. But that really goes with any other disease process as well. And again, I will go back to what we talked about last week. We’ll say, let’s just take a guess, say that 5 percent of people who get it, and this is just the guess, have severe symptoms. Five percent of 1,000 is much less than 5 percent of 10,000 for 20,000. And that’s why we’re seeing the increased numbers of people being hospitalized and placed on ventilators, and, unfortunately, sometimes dying.”

Sheehan said the chances of ending up on a ventilator from COVID-19 are relatively small, but the more cases the area gets of COVID-19, the more possibility of that occurring to someone.

“It happens,” said Sheehan. “So in general, I would say that, yeah, there’s a wide range of illness, anywhere from sniffles to cough and fever, fever of 104 for over a week with some difficulty breathing and, certainly, people that require hospitalization. So there’s a wide variety of symptoms and, well, it is less likely that you would end up on a ventilator or certainly in a ICU. You don’t want to get it in the first place to have that chance.”

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