‘We really want to avoid a lockdown’: Delco officials warn of COVID-19 surge overwhelming hospitals

Delaware County Memorial Hospital. (Google Maps)

Delaware County Memorial Hospital. (Google Maps)

All five hospitals in Delaware County were experiencing such a surge in both COVID-19 patients and other cases Monday night, they had to send incoming ambulances to other hospitals, per county officials, and wait times in emergency rooms were longer than usual.

The overwhelmed hospitals are part of a worrisome trend, the county’s leaders said Thursday. In the past week alone, Delaware County reported more than 200 new cases in three days. On Thursday, the county reported 223 new cases, not far from the peak number of cases last spring.

In an update to Delco residents, Chester County Health Director Jeanne Casner said officials were pleading with the public to be accountable and go back to implementing mitigation efforts such as mask wearing. (Chesco has taken the lead on the Delaware County health response during the pandemic because Delco does not yet have a health department of its own.)

When asked if a lockdown like the one residents had to adhere to in the spring was imminent, Casner said she believed there was more residents could do to buck the increase in new cases.

“We really want to avoid a lockdown, and we’re really pleading, and I know we’ve asked, but today we’re pleading with everybody to help us avoid it,” Casner said.

Delco Council Chairman Brian Zidek said that small businesses in the county are taking the necessary precautions to keep customers safe and remain open, but that public health investigators have linked new cases to social gatherings at home, people not wearing masks, people returning to work, and events like weddings and funerals.

The result of people letting their guard down is the return of community spread of the coronavirus, officials said, and for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the positivity rate in the county has passed the 9% threshold.

“This doesn’t really work if 50% of us are being responsible and the other 50% are going about their lives as though we’re not in the midst of a pandemic,” Zidek said.

Ultimately, Casner said, the fear is that if COVID-19 cases continue to rise during the colder seasons, other services will feel the impact. Already, first responders and employees at the 911 call center have come down with the virus, and surges in hospitals means ambulances have to take patients farther away.

“If we don’t reflect right now and take our own personal accountability into account, it is going to get out of hand again,” she said.

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