coronavirus_updates

Lancaster County is heading into the last month of 2021 with its Covid-19 case counts and hospitalizations heading in the wrong direction.

According to Friday's update of the state's Covid-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard, Lancaster County reported 1,526 new Covid-19 cases over the past seven days, up 23% from the week before.

Average hospitalizations were 136 over the week, up from 103. The county's test positivity rate increased from 13.8% to 17.7% — sharply above the 5% or lower rate that health officials consider optimal.

Click to enlarge. (Source: Pa. Health Dept.)

As of Friday, there were 142 Covid-19 inpatients countywide, of whom 91 were at Lancaster General Health. The hospital said 80% of its inpatients were unvaccinated, as were all but two of the 16 Covid-19 patients in intensive care.

Related: A local ER nurse discusses Covid-19, vaccination

This week, LGH said it would pause elective surgeries due to its rising inpatient counts.

The county coroner, meanwhile, reported 18 deaths between Nov. 28 and Dec 3. For all of November, 65 deaths have been reported, down from 79 in October.

Despite months of effort on the part of health care practitioners, a significant fraction of Lancaster County's eligible population remains unvaccinated. Adult vaccination here stands at 64%, versus 71% in the U.S. as a whole.

In its weekly blog post, the research center PolicyLab cautioned that major holidays such as Thanksgiving tend to create a few days of "noisy" data, making it harder to see clear trends.

Still, PolicyLab cautioned that hospital admissions and test positivity rates are rising rapidly in western and central Pennsylvania.

It will be policy decisions and individuals' actions, not the biology of new coronavirus variants such as omicron, that drive case rates upward or downward in coming weeks and months, PolicyLab said.

"Modifiable human behaviors, such as mask use and social distancing, alongside optimization of vaccine rates have been and will remain our most effective mitigation strategies," it said.

Tim Stuhldreher