By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Health officials say Pennsylvania has reached a “concerning milestone” in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, as one suburban Philadelphia health system postponed elective surgeries. Hospitals are filling up again and there are staffing issues because so many health care workers are being exposed in the community.

That prompted Main Line Health to take action Monday to limit surgery to make more beds available.

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Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine expects that to happen soon at many other hospitals.

“We’re very concerned about the hospital capacity,” Levine said.

The secretary of health says the average number of hospitalized patients a day in Pennsylvania has increased by nearly 3,000 since the end of September.

“This has clearly surpassed our highest numbers in hospitalizations from the spring,” Levine said.

There are currently more than 4,400 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state. Locally, Main Line Health is being proactive.

“We have, effective today, postponed certain elective patients which would have required in-patient surgical stays,” said Dr. Patrick Ross with Main Line Health.

Ross says Main Line Health currently has 180 COVID patients in its four hospitals. Two facilities — Lankaneau and Bryn Mawr — have tens up so emergency department patients can be separated.

With 81% of its beds currently occupied, Main Line put a hold on 90 elective surgeries scheduled this week, things like joint replacements.

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“We are faced with shortages in staff in the hospital because of the community acquired in nature of the virus right now,” Ross said.

At one point, 220 Main Line staff members were out either with COVID or having been exposed.

Ross says most COVID patients aren’t as sick as they were in the spring and treatments have improved significantly. But they’re expecting a holiday surge, which is why elective procedures are limited for now.

“We are very concerned about the potential impact of the Thanksgiving holiday, particularly those people, despite our advice, who traveled,” Levine said.

If you left Pennsylvania for the holiday weekend or stayed somewhere longer than 24 hours, the Pennsylvania Health Department says you should be quarantining right now, unless you have a new negative COVID test.


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Stephanie Stahl