BERN TWP., Pa. - About 30% of Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center in Bern Township is occupied by patients with COVID-19, according to Dr. Jeffrey Held, the hospital's vice president for medical affairs.
Across the system, officials said the numbers are still going to continue to go up, and the vaccine is months away from being widely distributed to the public.
"Every hospital, every health system is being challenged, and we're no different," said Dr. Peter Dillon, Penn State Health's executive vice president.
The network has 170 ICU beds. Dillon said they are anywhere from 80-90% occupied to almost full. He said all the hospitals are looking at places they can treat patients if they get beyond surge capacity.
"About 30% of the patients admitted [to St. Joe's] for COVID-19 need an ICU bed," Held said. "At least that's what we're seeing in our numbers, so we still have good capacity, and have that flexibility to scale up if we need to."
St. Joe's currently has 47 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus, and with several months until vaccines will have made it to most of the general public, officials are preparing for those numbers to grow.
Dr. Thomas Ma with Hershey Medical Center said Pfizer and Moderna, which both have FDA panel meetings within the next two weeks, will be ready to begin vaccine distribution immediately upon approval.
"It will initially get distributed to the state, and then states will then assign to the different institutions," Ma said.
Penn State Health provided photos taken by a staff photographer to document the work that St. Joseph Medical Center staff is doing to care for…
Healthcare workers are expected to be among the first group of people to be vaccinated. In the meantime, Dillon said Penn State Health recognizes the toll being taken on medical workers.
"We're definitely concerned about staff, staff morale, staff exhaustion, the strain on the staff," Dillon said. "There's no question that those are issues that we need [to], that we're actively addressing."
With the holidays just around the corner, medical professionals are still saying one of the biggest ways to avoid getting and spreading the virus is not to have gatherings like one normally would. Instead, they are asking people to stay home and visit virtually.