Penn Highlands Healthcare Urges Safe Habits as COVID-19 Cases Increase

People in our region are out and about. Students are preparing to return to school. Families are enjoying outings with friends and taking late summer vacations or short trips before getting into autumn routines. If you are among those who are in more public places and social situations, are you still mindful of COVID-19? People from coast to coast, including many in our region, have relaxed their COVID-19 precautions. However, for three consecutive weeks, Penn Highlands Healthcare is reporting an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“There are several factors contributing to the increase in COVID-19 cases in our community,” said Trina Abla, DO, MBA, Chief Medical Officer at Penn Highlands Healthcare. “Summer travel certainly is impacting the numbers, as well as the EG.5 variant which contains a mutation known to confer immune escape.”

While hospital admissions have increased both locally and nationally, they remain far below the peak levels and severe cases and deaths are quite rare compared to earlier in the pandemic. At Penn Highlands Healthcare, many of the COVID-19 admissions are elderly patients and those who have pre-existing conditions.

“People in high-risk groups should consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor settings and remain up-to-date with their vaccinations, including a booster in the fall when it becomes available,” said Dr. Abla

In June, the FDA recommended that manufacturers update their vaccines to target the XBB.1.5 lineage. A booster may be authorized as early as this month and could be available in September or October.

“Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 should avoid contact with others, especially those who are high-risk of getting very sick. Although the Public Health Emergency is over, COVID-19 remains a public health challenge,” added Dr. Abla.