In response to rapidly increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations at WellSpan hospitals – from 20 patients on July 19 to 95 as of Aug. 16 – the health system is announcing increased safety measures for team members and patients.
“The Delta variant of COVID-19 is taking hold nationally, and we must all take decisive action now before it gains an even stronger foothold in our communities and our facilities,” said Dr. Anthony Aquilina, executive vice president and chief physician officer, WellSpan Health. “Ultimately, getting the vaccine is the most important thing you can do to prevent becoming serious ill from COVID-19. It can also help to limit the spread of COVID-19 to your family, co-workers and those around you.”
Beginning Sept. 12, all WellSpan Health team members who choose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine but work in patient care areas will be tested for COVID-19 every other week. Masking and health screenings continue to be required by all team members, as well as patients, support persons and approved visitors over the age of two coming into our patient care locations regardless of COVID-19 status, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines.
In addition to the safety measures for WellSpan team members, stronger visitation restrictions are now in place, with all WellSpan facilities operating at level yellow, meaning one support person per patient stay, with certain clinical exceptions. These visitation guidelines do not apply to patients with COVID-19 or patients who are under investigation for COVID-19 where visitation is not allowed unless end of life or in another of the visitation policy’s noted exception categories.
“The health and safety of our patients and employees remain our top priority,” said Aquilina. “We recognize how important visitors and support persons are in the healing process for our patients, but we must do everything that we can to reduce the spread of this disease.”
According to the CDC, the Delta variant is much more contagious and highly transmissible compared to previous strains of COVID-19. Where the first strain had the potential of an infected person to pass the virus onto two people, an individual infected with the delta variant has the potential to spread it to as many as six or seven others.
“It’s one of the most contagious respiratory viruses that we know of and that is why we’re seeing the rapid spread,” explained Dr. Michael Seim, senior vice president and chief quality officer, WellSpan Health. “Masking can limit some of the transmission, but vaccinations are still the gold standard for those eligible.”
To date, WellSpan has administered more than 375,000 doses of the vaccine and it continues to be effective against all strains of the virus at preventing serious illness and hospitalization.
“With COVID-19 vaccinations proven to reduce hospitalizations, it makes this surge more difficult to stomach. Since June, more than 98 percent of the patients we’ve treated in our hospitals for COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated, and likely could have avoided such care,” explained Dr. Eugene Curley, infectious disease specialist, WellSpan Health. “It’s important to recognize that while breakthrough cases can occur in those that are vaccinated, transmission rates and hospitalization rates from those individuals remain very low.”
Recent research shows that even when a vaccinated individual is infected with the more highly contagious Delta variant, COVID-19 hospitalizations are prevented 85 percent and 91 percent of the time with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, respectively. According to the CDC, vaccinated individuals who do experience breakthrough cases also are infectious for less overall time than those who are unvaccinated, helping to limit the spread.
For the latest COVID-19 information, including the nearly 30 locations where individuals can get their vaccine through WellSpan Health, visit www.WellSpan.org/COVID19.