DuBOIS — A Penn Highlands Healthcare official provided a COVID-19 update during a press teleconference Wednesday.
“As you are well aware, the COVID-19 numbers continue to climb throughout Pennsylvania,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Russell Cameron. “In fact, the holiday surge started earlier than we expected. That is largely due to the omicron variant.”
According to the latest statistics, Cameron said there are a total of 92 inpatients with COVID across the entire seven-hospital system. In the past week, PHH has had 17 COVID-related deaths systemwide.
As of Wednesday, PH DuBois has 21 inpatients being treated for COVID; PH Brookville, two; PH Clearfield, nine; PH Elk, six; PH Huntingdon, 15; PH Tyrone, one; and PH Mon Valley, 38.
“This past month, we had approximately the same number of inpatients systemwide during our peak in December of 2020,” said Cameron. “This year, we are seeing more patients in the physician offices and in the clinics, but a number of hospital admissions is similar to this time last year. The overwhelming majority of patients who are doing poorly are in the ICU, (who) are on ventilators and are dying, are not vaccinated.”
Of the 6,100 employees systemwide, PHH currently has 199 employees who have either tested positive or are awaiting results.
One of the questions presented by the media, in advance of the teleconference, asked Cameron to explain the difference between the omicron and delta variants.
“Both the omicron and delta variants cause fatigue, but that’s where the similarities end,” said Cameron. “Omicron is more transmissible than the delta variant and is less likely to result in hospitalization. Omicron has a shorter incubation period than the other variants. It can spread rapidly with people developing symptoms in as little as three days. Those people can be contagious.”
Cameron also said that omicron may cause moderate cases in vaccinated people and more severe illness in unvaccinated people, similar to the other variants.
“Studies are finding that omicron does less damage to the lungs because the virus cannot attach to the proteins in the lungs,” said Cameron. “Some people who are sick due to the omicron variants may be less likely to lose their sense of taste and smell.”
If a person is admitted to the hospital specifically for COVID-19 symptoms, the treatment plan varies based on the severity of their symptoms, the presence of any other underlying medical conditions, he said.
One question from the media asked if the vaccine makes a difference since even vaccinated people are getting breakthrough cases.
“Absolutely,” said Cameron. “People who have both doses of the vaccine and the booster who do contract the virus are experiencing milder symptoms, less severe outcomes, less chance of the need to be admitted to the hospital, and less risk of mortality.”
PHH will continue to add vaccine clinics to their schedule in the communities they serve, said Cameron.
Cameron also said, “Many of us will likely be exposed to the virus, but whether or not a person becomes infected depends on individual behaviors. Being exposed doesn’t mean you will get infected. It depends also on individual behaviors such as masking and social distancing. Getting fully vaccinated and boosted will make a difference as to whether a person gets sick, as well as the difference in the severity of the case.”
In late December, Cameron said the FDA approved emergency use of Pfizer’s and Merck’s antiviral pills.
“These drugs are oral, antiviral pills that can be taken at home after a person experiences COVID-19 symptoms, and they help keep high risk patients from being hospitalized,” he said. “They’re both taken twice a day for five days. They’re taken within three days of the first symptoms of the illness. In studies, both medications have shown to decrease the need for hospitalization and the chance of death. Currently, there is a limited supply of the medication and they’re being sent to retail pharmacies in limited numbers. We’re in the process of trying to get doses for our retail pharmacies.”
Cameron noted that the vaccine is administered to the general population ages 5 and over and is a preventative measure before a patient is exposed to the COVID-19 virus. The pill is a treatment and to be taken by high-risk individuals three to five days after exposure has already occurred.
Cameron was asked if PHH is seeing more COVID cases in children.
Nationally, pediatric COVID-19 cases are more than 20 percent of all COVID-19 cases, he said.
“We are seeing more younger children with the virus. And unlike adults and older children, those under age 5 are the largest group that are not vaccinated. Pennsylvania is among the nine states with record numbers of pediatric hospitalizations,” said Cameron.
A Clearfield woman is wanted by Lawrence Township Police after drugs were seized from a car that she and two children were riding inside.
On Dec. 20 at 10:37 p.m. in the vicinity of the Hyde Car Wash, police conducted a vehicle stop for various violations, and contact was made with the operator of the vehicle. There were two small children in the vehicle along with Jacquelynn Peters, 36, of Clearfield.
Through the course of the investigation, a search of the vehicle and the adults was conducted, resulting in Peters being found in possession of crystal methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and prescription pills.
Peters has been charged by police with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, criminal use of a communication facility, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a small amount of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and one traffic offense for unauthorized display of registration plate.
A warrant has been obtained for Peters. Anyone with information on her whereabouts should contact Lawrence Township Police.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is advising motorists that starting Wednesday night, Jan. 12, a superload had begun traveling from West Milton, N.Y., to Wampum, Pa. in Lawrence County.
The superload will make a 400-mile journey across the state and is 213 feet long and weighs 294 tons.
In Clearfield County, the superload is expected to travel via I-80 westbound from Clinton County until it reaches the exit for state Route 153 North. The superload will then travel along SR153 until it reaches U.S. Route 219 in Ridgway, Elk County.
It is expected to creep through the local area over the weekend, although a forecasted snowstorm that is expected to dump 6 to 10-inches of snow starting Sunday evening could affect the superload’s schedule.
The superload will move as a rolling slowdown using two traffic lanes which will result in traffic stoppages and travel delays. The majority of the transport, currently scheduled to be completed on Jan. 21, will take place during nighttime hours. Movement could be impacted or delayed by winter weather. Perkins Specialized Transportation Contracting of Becker, Minnesota will transport the load.
The superload travel plan will involve 16 counties and will feature ramp maneuvers, unusual traffic patterns, and slow-moving vehicles. Drivers will need to remain alert for this slow-moving, two-lane operation, which will travel at the posted speed limit or 30 mph—whichever is lower.
Department updates on the superload’s travel can be followed on social media with the #PAsuperload22 hashtag.
Motorists are encouraged to “Know Before They Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras.
511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts.
STATE COLLEGE — AccuWeather forecasters warn that a snowstorm could wreak havoc on a large corridor of the eastern United States over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. It will pack hefty snow amounts, significant icing, heavy rain and gusty winds all throughout the Eastern Seaboard and across inland areas.
An intrusion of cold air behind a potent storm pummeling Atlantic Canada late this week will lead to winter weather mayhem as a storm dives southward across the Midwest before tracking across the Southeast and making a sharp turn north-northeastward along or just inland of the Atlantic Seaboard.
In the Clearfield region, it will be breezy and colder with times of clouds and sun today with a high of 33 degrees and a low of 8.
Saturday will be frigid with times of clouds and sun, with the high reaching 19 degrees and a low of 2. It will be bitterly cold and limited outdoor activity is recommended.
On Sunday, it will become increasingly cloudy as a storm moves in, with snow expected to begin around 7 p.m. and ending 7 p.m. on Monday. The high will be 26 degrees and the low will be 20.
A storm total of 6 to 10 inches of snow is forecasted. Monday’s high will be 29 degrees and the low will be 20.
“It looks like a very strong storm system will unleash very significant snow across the interior parts of the Northeast, especially from the Appalachians up into the high ground of New York state and into northern New England,” AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter said. “In some locations, the snow can be measured in feet.”
Even though the major winter storm is still a few days away from swinging into the Northeast, confidence is growing among AccuWeather meteorologists as to where the air will be cold enough to support an all-snow event versus one that features a wintry mix and all or mostly rain. As of Thursday, a track just inland or right along the Atlantic coast in the Northeast seems most likely.
In either case, and even though the storm’s strength is not expected to reach the magnitude of the Blizzard of ‘93, the storm from Sunday to Monday has the potential to pack a punch with a period of heavy snow on its cold northwestern flank and heavy rain or heavy snow changing to rain on its warmer southeastern side.
In portions of the central Appalachians during the height of the storm and at the onset of the storm close to the Atlantic coast, snow may fall at a furious pace of 1-3 inches per hour. A snowfall rate of this intensity can quickly bury roads and overwhelm road crews, especially along roadways that experience a heavy volume of traffic.
Snow is likely to fall throughout the duration of the storm in parts of the Appalachians, and a foot or more of snow could pile up with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 40 inches. Conditions will deteriorate quickly in the all-snow zone as increasing winds will lead to significant blowing and drifting of snow.
Even in some areas where mostly rain is forecast to fall along I-95 in the mid-Atlantic and part of New England, a few inches of snow can still pile up quickly beforehand. The speed of the change to rain or even a wintry mix, including ice, will determine precise snow accumulations. Several hours of a wintry mix will be likely in the suburbs of the major I-95 cities.
“Whenever we’re dealing with a big snow and ice storm, there’s going to be significant travel problems on the roads and also at the airports,” Porter said.
However, AccuWeather forecasters noted that a shift in the storm’s track by as little as 50 miles will affect the outcome.
“Should the storm manage to drift 50 miles or so off the coast while heading northward, I-95 cities from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, New York City and Boston could be buried in snow with little or no rain and ice mixing in,” Deger said. In that case, a true nor’easter would unfold, and even blizzard conditions might develop along the I-95 corridor.
If the storm takes a path much farther to the west of I-95, the heaviest snow will instead fall along the western slopes of the Appalachians to portions of the Ohio Valley and part of the Great Lakes region, although AccuWeather forecasters say this scenario appears to be less likely to unfold. Rain would spread from the I-95 corridor to areas well to the north and west. A wintry mix at the height of the storm could potentially cut down accumulations along the spine of the Appalachians in this scenario.
The storm has the potential to strand travelers on the highways and at airports as people move about for the long weekend.
Major disruptions to travel, shipping, supply chain and COVID-19 testing are anticipated due to areas of rapid snow accumulation, icy conditions and even flooding rain, according to Porter.
“We’re already dealing with so many shortages of products at some supermarkets, that we’re going to be concerned about supermarkets being able to keep the products that consumers need across many parts of the affected areas,” Porter explained.