As summer approaches, the COVID-19 pandemic has lessened its grip on the Crawford County healthcare system compared to last winter.
“Things have improved dramatically with respect to our census of patients hospitalized with COVID,” said Dr. Kevin Kraeling, medical director of Meadville Medical Center. “As of this (Friday) morning, Meadville Medical Center has only two hospitalized patients and they are not in intensive care (intensive care unit) or on ventilators. They are in ordinary rooms.
“But that doesn’t mean letting your guard down – you still want to be proactive in the measures to prevent (catching COVID),” he said.
Kraeling continues to urge those who are unvaccinated, or not fully vaccinated, to do so.
Those who are vaccinated and wondering if they should get a second COVID booster shot should check Centers for Disease Control guidelines and consult their doctor, Kraeling said.
The COVID surge in late fall 2021 caused Meadville to have over 600 hospitalizations for COVID-19 from October through February.
“Right around Thanksgiving we really start getting (COVID-19) admissions,” Kraeling said.
In January, at the height of the fall-winter surge, Philip Pandolph, president and CEO of Meadville Medical Center, called it “a time unlike anything we’ve seen” due to wear and tear on the medical and support staff.
The past two years have been challenging for the healthcare community and more so due to the scale and duration of the recent surge, according to Kraeling.
“A disaster has a timeline in place – an event happens and you deal with the fallout,” he said. “A pandemic is just the great unknown that weighs on people’s minds.”
The drop in COVID admissions in Meadville this month to just eight as of April 21 (the latest data available) is welcome, Kraeling said.
“We are resuming our normal activities at the hospital,” Kraeling said.
However, there are still staff shortages at the medical center, as well as at nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, he said. Staffing shortages in nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities can lengthen the transfer time for a patient from hospital to one of these facilities.
More than 140 positions remain open at Meadville Medical Center — from nursing and medical staff to housekeeping, food and facility maintenance, he said.
Current COVID variants appear to be milder and there should be a summer lull if the number of COVID cases follows last year’s pattern, Kraeling said.
Local health officials, however, are closely monitoring the increase in active COVID cases at Allegheny College in Meadville over the past few days.
In an update Friday, Allegheny said he had 165 active cases among his students, including 107 in isolation accommodations provided by Allegheny. There were also seven active cases among Allegheny employees.
“It’s really concerning and the college is taking steps to quarantine these students and protect the wider community,” Kraeling said, noting that the students haven’t interacted with the community as a whole.
“The one predictable thing about COVID is that it’s unpredictable,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get back to more normal times. However, I think we’re going to see these clusters of infections like the college is experiencing. There will be bubble breakouts.”