Geisinger CEO pushes vaccines amid concerning COVID trends


(WTAJ)- While other parts of the country are seeing a dip in COVID infections, the same cannot be said for the Central PA region. In a press conference Friday, Geisinger President and CEO Dr. Jaewon Ryu discussed concerning trends hitting the area.

Within the past two weeks, the covid positivity rate in the region rose from 11 to 13 percent. Dr. Ryu says that the region is not peaking or dropping and that current numbers are comparable to last November. However, he said if we keep going in this trend, the worst is still yet to come.

“We hope that’ll it continue to flatten a little bit,” Dr. Ryu said. “But the positivity rate going higher is definitely something to be concerned on that suggests that the worse is still yet to come.”

These trends are leading to hospitals being overwhelmed again. Due to Geisinger’s covid protocols, there are over 1,000 employees listed under quarantine.

Currently, 16% of hospital beds are of covid patients; 90% of those patients are unvaccinated. Some campuses are seeing 40% of their beds of COVID patients. As a result of the overwhelming capacity, patients with non-urgent procedures such as knee replacements are being delayed and pushed back.

“We have seen in recent weeks as many as really over a thousand,” Dr. Ryu said. “I think recently we got 11 or 12 hundred of our employees that have been out on quarantine because we follow those departments of health guidelines and requirements on quarantining protocols related to healthcare workers.”

The Delta variant remains the most active across the country. Geisinger says that the variant is mainly affecting the younger generation. Data shows that the average case age dropped by more than ten years. Dr. Ryu says that the best option to free up the space is to continue to push vaccination efforts.

“We believe that with the vaccination efforts and the more that we could push that,” Dr. Ryu said. “A lot of that capacity would free up. Covid cases would hopefully continue to obey.”

Geisinger mentions that data shows that vaccinated folks are five less likely to be infected, ten times less likely to be hospitalized, and eleven times less likely to die. Geisinger requires employees to be vaccinated by November 1, or else they’ll be terminated. So far, 95% of their employees are fully vaccinated or have begun the process.

“We know that a vaccinated environment is safer than an unvaccinated environment,” Dr. Ryu said. “We know that a masking environment is safer than an unmasking environment.”

However, Dr. Ryu adds only a small handful of employees left because of the mandate, and he’s optimistic that number will remain low. Dr. Ryu that the state of the pandemic remains a mystery, but it’s up to the community to make changes.

“We control our destiny on this in many ways. That future is up to us.”

As of Friday, there were 443 new local cases across our area.

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