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Keep your guard up, UAHS officials stress

Posted on: 07/09/2020

Now, five months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of positive cases across the U.S. has topped three million, by far leading the world. In New York state, the pandemic hit the New York City area hard in the spring and made New York the temporary epicenter of the disease in the country.

But, measures taken to flatten the curve - create additional hospital capacity, testing, an aggressive push for social distancing and masking and the painful closing of the economy - brought results, and at least for now, is keeping New York off the list of states now experiencing an explosion of new COVID-19 cases.

Locally, Olean and Bradford have been spared the brunt of the virus, experiencing only moderate hospitalizations due to the virus. This week, Cattaraugus County registered its 100th positive case while McKean County has seen only 20 positive cases, which pales in comparison to some urban counties which are seeing cases in the thousands.

To date, Olean General has seen a total of 18 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 while Bradford Regional Medical Center has had no COVID-19 inpatients. Both hospitals ramped efforts up in the spring, adding capacity and safety measures in preparation for a possible surge.

“Reflecting on where we were in March, what we did and where we are now, it’s clear that we have been fortunate, at least up to now. Our staff and our community pulled together to keep the impact of COVID-19 to a minimum and it’s been working,” said Jeff Zewe, RN, president and CEO of Upper Allegheny Health System. “I am so very proud of our staff for stepping up in the face of this pandemic. In spite of the threat our hospitals are safe and ready to care for patients” he said. “Throughout this crisis we have been in lock step with the health departments in Cattaraugus and McKean counties and the region’s physician groups to address this issue. We have also carried our message to community leaders in both Olean and Bradford through our regular community calls.”

That said, UAHS officials stressed the pandemic is far from over. “We need to keep our guard up, particularly with the rampant rise in COVID-19 cases in most of the other states,” said William Mills, MD, chief medical officer for UAHS. “We can’t be complacent because our numbers are low. The one thing we know about this virus is that it is very aggressive and efficient. The numbers in many states are going in wrong direction very quickly,” he said. “It’s becoming more apparent that this virus may not be defeated until there is an effective vaccine available,” Dr. Mills said.
“We remain vigilant and we remain cautious, ready to ramp up again if the virus begins to spread here,” Zewe said. “But everyone needs to continue do all they can to protect themselves, including social distancing, wearing a mask and aggressive hand washing, and using common sense. It’s clear that in many other states people relaxed, started heading to the bars, ignored precautions and the results have been disastrous. We don’t want that to happen here.”

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