Allentown’s top health official warns about the impacts of rising COVID-19 hospitalization rate

Written by on November 13, 2020

Allentown’s top health official warns about the impacts of rising COVID-19 hospitalization rate

By Tyler Pratt

November 13, 2020

Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

Cases of COVID-19 are skyrocketing across Pennsylvania. On Thursday, nearly 5,500 new infections were reported. The rise in cases is becoming exponential.

The Lehigh Valley is one of many areas that has fallen into the category of “substantial spread,” which means the virus is circulating widely. 

Health experts are begging people to continue mask wearing and social distancing to help limit the spread of the virus. 

WLVR’s Tyler Pratt spoke with Vicky Kistler, Director of the Health Bureau in Allentown where, once again, the rate of coronavirus hospitalization is on the rise. 

Listen to the interview.

TRANSCRIPT:

Vicky Kistler: We are crossing our fingers; praying, hoping that we are not going to see the number of hospitalizations increase. We are already seeing the numbers of people who have been admitted increase. But what we are being told is that many people who are infected with this virus are not as critically ill as perhaps the initial surge we had before. However, we are very worried that that is going to change. We had gone numerous weeks in the city of Allentown without a death – we’ve had two deaths recently, so that is alarming. But we are waiting and holding our breaths that people will social distance, mask, and try their best to go back to containing this virus.

Tyler Pratt: Does the death rate go up in correlation to the hospitalization rate?

VK: Not necessarily. We know a lot more, the medical profession knows a lot more about this virus than they did back in February and March, so we do have better treatment data, we do have better resources, so I don’t believe that we’re in the exact same position that we were in before. But numbers and capacity and demand are still very real, and what is incredibly alarming is that these numbers are surging nationwide. When they surge in geographic locations only, you can move resources. But when you have many, many states throughout the nation seeing surges, then you start going back to supply and demand, and you start not being able to share resources.

TP: What happens if hospitals fill up?

VK: What happens is that they have to establish emergency locations to take care of people, which requires a ton of manpower and exposes more and more. They have to overwhelm their staff the way they were overwhelmed before. We’re just hoping and praying that those situations don’t occur, that people will work hard to contain this so that the ERs don’t get overwhelmed and so that we can continue on the path to work our way through this virus, as well as to, again, cave to this virus.

TP: What are you doing to counter the politicization of mask wearing? Is there anything that can be done to change the narrative when people say they don’t think they need them?

VK: Yesterday the CDC came out with a strong statement that the evidence clearly indicates that the mask protects you. In the beginning, the message that was being sent was that your mask protects others, but now the evidence is clear that wearing a mask appropriately protects you. And even the folks who are telling us that they have mild illness, we really truly don’t know the longterm consequences of having this virus. So we are stressing to people, regardless of whether your case was mild, or whether your case was severe, that you encourage everyone that you are friends with, everyone in your family, all of your social contacts to mask and maintain that six-foot social distance.

TP: With President Trump getting COVID and recovering, some people might say it’s not that big of a deal. What would you say to people that don’t think that it’s serious?

VK: For some people, COVID may not be that bad. For other people, COVID is a horrible experience, and for a third segment, COVID is a death sentence. So you don’t know which category you fall into. What we do know is COVID is preventable. The transmission of COVID is preventable. And to me, it’s tragic for anyone to go through an illness or condition if there are steps we can take to prevent that. So to those folks who say COVID isn’t all that bad, you’re incredibly lucky. If you’re one of the ones who contracted the virus and you didn’t miss a beat, you’re incredibly fortunate. But I’ve had far too many conversations with folks who were not hospitalized but who felt like they were hit by a truck, or who felt like an elephant was standing on their chest, or who were terrified to go to sleep at night because they just didn’t know if it was going to get worse. To those folks, it’s very traumatizing and it’s very debilitating. And then to the others who spent time in ICU, it’s not only debilitating to them, it’s been a horrific experience for their families to not know the outcome and to not be sitting by their side holding their hands. So I think we have to all keep in mind that our experience may not be the experience that everyone has.

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