A week into 2021, Westmoreland County’s coronavirus (COVID-19) case total has exceeded 1,600 for the year and 21,000 since the start of the pandemic, while the county has averaged six coronavirus deaths per day to start the new year.

According to data on the county website, there were 279 new coronavirus cases and six COVID-19 deaths reported Thursday.

The six new coronavirus deaths reported Thursday — marking 42 so far in 2021 — bring the county’s total since the start of the pandemic to 465. There had been 423 coronavirus deaths reported at the start of the new year, with 224 of those coming in December.

With Thursday’s update, there have been 1,670 new cases this year and 21,003 total coronavirus cases in Westmoreland County since March — 15,558 confirmed cases and 5,445 probable cases, according to data on the county site. There have been 75,061 negative coronavirus tests in the county since the start of the pandemic.

Westmoreland County closed out 2020 by adding 10,072 new coronavirus cases and 224 coronavirus deaths in the month of December, according to figures on the county website.

More than 52% of the county’s total cases and more than 52.95% of the county’s COVID-19 deaths in 2020 came in the final month of the year.

The first coronavirus deaths for Westmoreland County were reported April 5, according to the state health department.

The Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office updated its listed total of coronavirus deaths at 5 a.m. Tuesday, increasing its count from 293 to 328. Of those deaths, 321 were confirmed by testing and another seven are presumed cases based on symptoms.

The youngest person to die of COVID-19 in Westmoreland County was 36, according to the coroner’s office, and the oldest 109.

The coroner’s COVID-19 death total includes any individual whose death occurred in Westmoreland County, regardless of their county of residence.

Statewide, coronavirus cases reached 693,087 as of Thursday’s update to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard. That case total includes 616,519 confirmed cases in the state and 76,568 probable cases. Throughout Pennsylvania, 17,179 people have died of coronavirus, according to the state health department. Of the state’s coronavirus deaths, 9,311 (54.2%) are associated with long term care facilities, which have been virus hotspots throughout the pandemic.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there have been 55,864 coronavirus cases among residents and 10,313 cases among staff members at 1,489 long term care facilities throughout the state.

In Westmoreland County, according to the state health department, 48 long-term care facilities have accounted for 1,714 positive COVID-19 cases among residents, 216 cases among staff members and 183 coronavirus deaths as of the state health department’s last update at noon Thursday.

Help is on the way for long term care facilities as COVID-19 vaccinations have begun making their way to residents and employees. Residents and staff at Westmoreland Manor, the county-owned personal care home in Hempfield Township, began receiving inoculations last week, according to officials there.

The state health department’s COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard indicates there have been 177,767 initial doses of coronavirus vaccinations administered in the state, including 5,467 in Westmoreland County as of Wednesday’s update.

Currently, all COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use require two doses spread out several weeks apart.

As of Thursday’s update, 538 people had received a second dose of their COVID-19 vaccination in Pennsylvania and were considered “full vaccinations” according to the vaccine dashboard. Two of those full vaccinations are in Westmoreland County, according to the site.

As of Thursday, there were 5,491 coronavirus patients hospitalized throughout Pennsylvania, according to the state health department — down from 5,684 on Tuesday and 5,613 Wednesday. Of those patients, 1,113 were in adult intensive care units and 625 were on ventilators.

In Westmoreland County, as of Thursday’s update, there were 181 patients hospitalized for COVID-19, with 18 in adult intensive care units and 14 on ventilators according to the state health department. Of the 100 ventilators available in Westmoreland County, according to state data, a total of 23 were in use by COVID and non-COVID patients as of Thursday’s update.

According to state figures last updated at noon Thursday, there were 22 adult ICU beds available at Westmoreland County hospitals — 24.4% of total adult ICU beds — 57 medical/surgical beds and 92 airborne isolation beds.

The state years ago established seven regional Health Care Coalitions, or HCCs, as part of its emergency preparedness plan. Westmoreland County is part of the HCC of Southwest PA, or the Southwest region, which also includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset and Washington counties.

The Southwest region had 1,189 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 Thursday, down from 1,280 on Wednesday. Of those patients, 272 were on adult intensive care units and 121 were on ventilators. Overall, 441 of the region’s 1,554 available ventilators were in use as of the update.

Citing concerns an influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations could stretch health systems thin on staff, Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine on Nov. 23 issued an order directing hospitals to reduce “elective procedures” by half if their region meets at least two of the following criteria:

  • 33% or more of hospitals in the region anticipate staffing shortages in the next week;
  • 50% or more increase in the moving average of COVID-19 admissions in the previous 48 hours;
  • 10% or fewer of the medical and surgical beds in a region are projected to be available in the next 72 hours.

The Southwest region for weeks had exceeded the anticipated staffing shortage mark, but since last week, the region has fallen below the 33% figure. As of Thursday’s update 25.6% of hospitals in the Southwest region anticipated staffing shortages. The Keystone HCC was the only region in the state to meet any of the criteria Thursday, as 40.9% of hospitals in that region reported anticipated staffing shortages.

According to the state’s COVID-19 Reduction of Elective Procedures Dashboard, the Southwest region had experienced a 2.8% decrease in coronavirus hospitalizations over the most recent 48-hour period prior to the site’s last update on Thursday and 46.1% of medical and surgical beds in the region were projected to be available for patient care in the next 72 hours.

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