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Lancaster County leaders provide first update on COVID-19 in months

The update covered a wide range of topics from the federal and county response, to school planning, and vaccine distribution

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — On Tuesday Lancaster County leaders and health officials gave their first update on COVID-19 in four months.

Officials are calling on people to start modeling many of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts that were made back in the spring, including extra vigilance with social distancing, washing hands, and wearing a mask, as they are calling this recent surge of cases a "second wave."

"I realize that we all have pandemic fatigue," Dr. Michael Ripchinski with Lancaster General Health, said. "Trust me, your healthcare providers are tired too. We would love to move on. We desperately want to return to normal."

Dr. Ripchinski said they are seeing on average 240 positive COVID-19 tests per day. In the spring, the average was 38. As of Tuesday morning, Lancaster General Hospital and Women and Babies Hospital currently have 80 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 20 of which are in critical care, 15 are on ventilators.

"And those patients that are hospitalized are of every age," Dr. Ripchinski said. "From a 10-month-old to those in their 20's who have needed to have ventilation, all the way to a 96-year-old patient at LGH."

Lancaster EMA said it has a vaccine distribution plan in place which includes three phases.

Phase 1A will go to healthcare, ems, long-term care, skilled care, and personal care home staff.

Phase 1B will go to residents of congregate care settings, people over 65, and other first responders like fire and law enforcement.

Phase 2 will go to those who are at high-risk, people ages 40-64, education and childcare staff.

Phase 3 will go to the general public.

It's also possible two mass public vaccination sites will open to make sure everyone gets their vaccine in a timely fashion. 

"What's going to drive when each of these phases occurs is the availability of the vaccine," Phil Colvin, Emergency Management Director, said 

And with the holiday approaching, school districts are now scrambling to meet new Department of Health and Department of Education recommendations regarding in-person and virtual learning.

"Personally, I am very concerned with the timeline that has been outlined," Mike Bromirski, Superintendent of Hempfield School District, said. "Every district must review all of the new information and meet with their board to discuss the implications of the new orders."

LGH said it will get their first doses of the vaccine to distribute mid-December. As for the location of those proposed vaccine distributions sites, one would be at a Lancaster County school district building, another would be in the southern part of the County where there aren't as many medical centers.

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