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Lehigh Valley Health Network could surpass peak levels of COVID-19 patients, doctor warns – lehighvalleylive.com


Nov 25, 2020

The number of COVID-19 patients has doubled in the last 10 days in the Lehigh Valley Health Network, and the network could surpass peak levels seen last spring.

Dr. Timothy Friel warns residents to take precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19. He’s the health network’s infectious disease specialist.

“LVHN has a plan in place and is prepared to care for COVID-19 and all patients, but we can only do this in these circumstances with the community’s help by not being overrun with patients suffering from COVID and having the beds, equipment and staff available to treat all patients,” Friel said in a prepared statement.

Dr. Jeffrey Jahre with St. Luke’s University Health Network says his network is seeing an elevated number of cases but he doesn’t anticipate reaching peak levels of cases. That’s due to new technologies and new procedures.

“We have learned a lot since April,” Jahre said. He’s St. Luke’s infectious disease specialist.

In the past few weeks, Pennsylvania went from 200,000 cases to 300,000 cases of COVID-19, according to the state health department. There are 18,000 cases in the Lehigh Valley.

The statement from Friel didn’t indicate how many people are hospitalized in the Lehigh Valley Health Network with COVID-19, but the doctor told WFMZ-TV 69 News that its hospitals are treating 230 patients and recently admitted 120 more patients, although it’s unsure how many of those new patients will test positive for COVID-19. The health network’s peak number of hospitalized patients was 264 in March, he told WFMZ.

Jahre said hospital patients admitted with COVID-19 are being treated more effectively this fall and are more quickly discharged than in the spring.

St. Luke’s was the first health network to treat COVID-19 patients with steroids, with plasma and now with monoclonal antibodies. That’s the treatment President Trump received when he was infected with COVID-19.

The network opened its first outpatient monoclonal antibody treatment center at its Easton campus this week and plans to open a second in Warren County next week.

Jahre said St. Luke’s was the first network to take this new medical breakthrough and figure out how to implement it throughout its organization. That took cooperation from top to bottom among its administrators and employees.

“It is important to acknowledge the can-do nature of the St. Luke’s team that worked tirelessly 24-7 so we could bring this to our public,” Jahre said.

St. Luke’s University Health Network’s is treating about 150 COVID-19 patients and about 16% of the intensive care unit admissions are virus patients, said Dr. Rajika Reed. She is the senior director of epidemiology and strategy for the network.

Those numbers are not cause for alarm, Jahre said. If you spread 150 patients across St. Luke’s 12 hospitals, you can see there is sufficient capacity to handle the volume of patients. The hospital anticipated a spike in patients this fall and planned accordingly, Jahre said.

“The public should be reassured there is no shortage of ICU beds. We are able to accommodate all of their needs whether for COVID or non-COVID illnesses,” Jahre said.

LVHN’s Friel said it’s still important to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash hands and stay home, especially if you’re sick. He advises residents to limit social contacts over the holidays to the people you’re at home with every day.

“We are at a critical crossroads where positive cases and hospitalizations continue to rise,” Friel said, adding, “With your help, we can slow the spread of the virus and flatten the curve just as we did in the spring.”

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Rudy Miller may be reached at rmiller@lehighvalleylive.com. If there’s anything about this story that needs attention, please email him. Follow him on Twitter @RudyMillerLV. Find Easton area news on Facebook.


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