UPDATED: Allegany County Health Department reports 625 new COVID-19 cases in three days

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Jan. 10—CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Health Department on Monday reported that 625 Allegany County residents tested positive for COVID-19 since Friday.

That brought the county's cumulative total COVID-19 cases to 13,266.

"Allegany County continues to lag behind most of the state in COVID-19 vaccination rates," ACHD said via press release. "Currently, only 49.3% of Allegany County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID, compared to 71.0% of Marylanders."

Health officials encourage county residents to get tested if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, nasal congestion, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Free COVID-19 testing is available at the Allegany County Fairgrounds from 2 to 7 p.m. Mondays, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.

People who test positive for COVID-19 "should isolate at home for at least five full days," ACHD said.

"To end isolation after five days, the individual must show signs of symptom improvement and be fever-free for at least 24 hours without fever reducing medication," according to the release. "Even after ending isolation, individuals should continue to take precautions until day 10, including wearing a well-fitted mask when around others, avoiding travel, and avoiding being around people who are at high risk."

Learn more at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html.

Hospitals react

Amy Boothe is chief operating officer at Potomac Valley Hospital in Keyser, West Virginia.

On Monday, she said more than half of PVH's emergency department visits were related to COVID-19.

"We have a full ICU and only a couple of inpatient beds available," Boothe said via email. "We're still getting patients into a room to see a provider in 10 to 15 minutes on average. Our average visit time is around 90 minutes. The long waits happen when the patient needs admitted to an inpatient bed, related to how full all of the hospitals in the area remain."

PVH does not have a designated COVID-19 waiting room, but officials were triaging patients that had tested positive for the virus "and placing them in rooms right away," she said.

"No visitors are allowed in the COVID-19 rooms in the ED, except for special circumstances such as parent (and) child," Boothe said.

PVH recommends people with COVID-19 symptoms to talk to their primary care provider for advice, she said.

PVH staff members continue to "strive to ensure we are able to handle the patient volume presenting to the hospital," Boothe said. "We've spent a lot of time during the last two years in cross-training and preparation so our staff can flex to wherever the volume is and to feel safe and capable of doing that. We do still have many vacancies in the facility, but our staff is dedicated to meeting the needs of the community."

Monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 were "coming in limited doses and we are frequently out of stock on those doses," she said.

Kendra Thayer is senior vice president of patient care services, chief nursing officer, and chief operating officer at Garrett Regional Medical Center.

"We are seeing a number of patients with COVID-19," she said via email Monday. "About a quarter of our inpatient beds are COVID in various phases of recuperation."

Wait times in GRMC's emergency department varied "but can be several hours depending on the severity of the condition," Thayer said.

"We do have a separate waiting area for COVID patients (and) we do not allow visitors with the COVID patients but do offer Facetime visits, Zoom, etc.," she said.

GRMC offers monoclonal infusions for people who have COVID-19, as prescribed by their primary care provider.

"If you are COVID positive, please stay home and monitor your symptoms, and get plenty of rest," Thayer said. "Call your primary care provider if you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or other unusual symptoms. Please do not come to the ED for COVID testing."

Staff members were working overtime "but managing," she said.

"We are experiencing staffing shortages like every other healthcare facility," Thayer said.

UPMC Western Maryland did not provide specific information about its number of COVID-19 patients, bed availability or wait times.

In the West Central region, which includes UPMC sites in Cumberland; and Altoona, Bedford and Somerset areas of Pennsylvania, UPMC was caring for 117 COVID-19 inpatients, UPMC Regional spokesperson Corinne Nicole Weaver said via email Monday.

"This correlates with the area's vaccination rates being some of the lowest in Maryland," she said.

"Across UPMC, over 75% of those in the hospital for COVID-19 have not been vaccinated; most of the rest are over age 65 or have other severe conditions that limit their immunity," Weaver said.

"Unvaccinated people who get COVID-19 are seven to 10 times more likely to end up in ICU than vaccinated people," she said. "People with full vaccination, including a booster, and communities with high vaccination rates simply are safer from COVID-19 death and serious illness."

Anyone with a perceived emergency medical condition should go to the closest emergency department or call 911 immediately, Weaver said.

"We need people to know that they should not be afraid to come to the emergency department if they are experiencing a medical emergency," she said. "We urge others with new or worsened illness and injuries that are not severe to take advantage of outpatient options."

The emergency department "is not the place to simply get a COVID-19 test," Weaver said.

"You can get tested for COVID-19 without having to wait in a line if you use our other care offerings," she said of UPMC urgent care facilities, at the Allegany County Fairgrounds, through a primary care provider, or other community resources.

"If you get sick, stay home and get tested. That will allow us to better help you," Weaver said.

"UPMC Western Maryland provides monoclonal antibody treatment to eligible patients according to supply availability," she said.

"While not a treatment, UPMC Western Maryland is ready to begin administering EVUSHELD to eligible high-risk patients for pre-exposure prophylaxis (prevention) of COVID-19," Weaver said.

"There is an increased demand for care — from COVID-19, but also delay of other treatment through the pandemic — and our health care heroes are working hard to provide care to all those in our region who need it," she said. "We ask that you thank and support them, show them patience and understanding as they work to serve you and our community."

Vaccine clinics

Jan. 12: Allegany County Fairgrounds, 11400 Moss Ave.

Moderna booster clinic (ages 18+) by appointment only. Register online at https://www.marylandvax.org/appointment/en/reg/0921564101.

First and second doses of Moderna (ages 18+), first and second doses of Pfizer (ages 12+), and booster doses of Pfizer (ages 12+) are available on a walk-in basis. No appointment is necessary.

For assistance registering for an appointment, county residents can call the COVID-19 call center at 240-650-3999.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are also widely available in the community at local pharmacies, urgent care clinics, and some primary care providers.

Case rates

The Maryland Department of Health Monday reported 9,683 new COVID-19 cases, 47 additional deaths and 78 more hospitalizations across the state in the past 24 hours.

The daily case rate was 27.98% statewide, 28.04% in Allegany County, 21.28% in Garrett County and 31.9% in Washington County.

The seven-day moving average case rate per 100,000 people was 210.39 statewide, 216.74 in Allegany County, 136.71 in Garrett County and 203.41 in Washington County.

Active cases in Mineral County were at 320 Monday, up from 223 Friday. The county infection and positivity rate were not available on the state's COVID-19 dashboard Monday afternoon.

Teresa McMinn is the Digital Editor for the Cumberland Times-News. She can be reached at 304-639-2371 or tmcminn@times-news.com.

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