Geisinger CEO expresses concern over COVID case increases

DANVILLE — "Concern" is a word which was repeated constantly Friday afternoon by Geisinger Health System President and CEO Dr. Jaewon Ryu as he discussed a recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the system.

"We are seeing concerning trends," Ryu said, as he opened an online press briefing. "We are seeing very concerning community trends. The spread is pretty prevalent in our community."

According to Ryu, someone with COVID-19 who requires hospitalization is admitted every hour to a Geisinger hospital.

Currently, 190 people are hospitalized across the system with the virus. He said that's the highest number since April, when 130 patients were hospitalized across the system.

"This thing is picking up steam at a rate none of us are happy about," Ryu said. "The worst is still to come."

Of those who are hospitalized, he said only 10 to 15% are nursing home residents. The largest spread of the virus is occurring in people in their 20s, 30s and 50s.

Several weeks ago, Ryu said just 9% of those who were tested for the virus had a positive result. Now, the number has increased to 20%.

He advised everyone to use "extreme caution" when planning Thanksgiving celebrations.

"Anyone who is not in your household could be a carrier of this virus," Ryu said.

He said everyone should wear a mask if visiting a home other than their own.

With recent state guidelines that anyone traveling from out of state quarantine for 14 days upon return unless they've had a negative test result within 72 hours of returning, Ryu was asked if someone with no symptoms of the virus can be tested.

To that, Ryu said anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested. However, testing may not be recommended by a physician for someone who is asymptomatic. 

Ryu also said that whether an individual would be charged for the testing would be dependent upon their medical insurance company.

A sharp increase in COVID-19 cases across the Central Susquehanna Valley was reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Thursday.

In Union County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by 103, bringing the number of cases to 1,121.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, multiple inmates and staff at FCI and USP Allenwood are listed as currently having COVID-19. The numbers are as follows: FCI Allenwood Low Security, 2 staff; FCI Allenwood Medium Security, 35 inmates, 2 staff; USP Allenwood, 41 inmates, 5 staff.

In Northumberland County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by 35, bringing the total number of cases since the onset of the pandemic to 1,979. In Lycoming County, the number of confirmed cases rose by 43, to 1,468.

Other case increases include: Snyder County, 16; and Montour County 5. One new death from the virus was also documented in Union County.

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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