Erie doctor: COVID cases rising due to unvaccinated people acting like there is no pandemic –

Show Caption
Hide Caption

Here’s when the new COVID-19 antiviral pill could become available

A new experimental antiviral drug has proven to cut COVID-19 infections in half and is effective against variants Gamma, Delta, and Mu.

Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

Erie County’s second surge of COVID-19 spiked last week as newly confirmed cases rose by 24%, even as the nationwide number of new cases starts to decline.

It’s the 13th straight week in which the county’s number of cases has increased, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The county reported 74 new COVID-19 cases Monday, 159 cases on Sunday and 147 on Saturday. It also reported three deaths due to COVID-19 complications, increasing the county’s total to 517 deaths since the pandemic started

Cases continue to rise in the county because too many people who aren’t vaccinated are going out in public without wearing face masks or being socially distant, said Howard Nadworny, M.D., a Saint Vincent Hospital infectious diseases specialist and adviser to the Erie County Department of Health.

“People who aren’t vaccinated are acting like the virus isn’t around,” Nadworny said. “They aren’t wearing face masks and they’re spreading the virus.”

The state health department reported 941 newly confirmed cases in the county Oct. 1-7, compared to 757 cases Sept. 24-30. The county’s incidence rate per 100,000 people rose during that period from 280.7 cases to 348.9.

The rise in cases is sending more people with COVID-19 to local hospitals. Erie County’s 14-day moving average of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations has risen from 52.4 to 60.9 since Oct. 4.

“We continue to see incremental increases in (UPMC Hamot’s) number of hospitalized patients,” said Emily Shears, vice president of quality for UPMC in Northwest Pennsylvania and New York. “We had 39 patients (Monday), which is up from a couple of weeks ago when we had numbers in the high 20s and lower 30s.”

More: Many Pa. school districts are passing up free coronavirus testing even after a rise in cases

These patients tend to be younger than those hospitalized during the first COVID-19 surge in November and December.

Nadworny said he is seeing many of them in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Some of them don’t even have health issues, such as obesity or diabetes, that put them at higher risk of COVID-19 complications.

“What they tend to have in common is that they are unvaccinated,” Nadworny said.

More: COVID-19 cases among children in Erie County rise to 214 from 197 the previous week

Shears said UPMC officials are hopeful that hospitalizations in Erie County will begin to decline in three to four weeks.

Their prediction is based on what has happened with the delta variant in Florida and Texas, where the number of hospitalizations started to fall eight to 10 weeks after the surge started.

“COVID isn’t seasonal like flu but it seems to be cyclical,” Shears said. “You tend to see an increase in cases sweep the country, followed by a decline.”

But Nadworny is a bit less optimistic.

“My concern is that we might only see a small decrease before cases rise again as the weather gets cooler and people head indoors,” Nadworny said.

Here is a look at the rest of the county’s weekly COVID-19 measurements from the state health department:

  • The COVID-19 test positivity rate rose from 11.3% to 13.8%.
  • The average daily number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 increased from 57.7 to 58.1.
  • The average daily number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators dropped from 13.9 to 7.7.
  • The percentage of emergency department visits due to COVID-19 symptoms rose from 2.4% to 2.6%.

Contact David Bruce at Follow him on Twitter @ETNBruce.