By Greg Argos

MEDIA, Pa. (CBS) — A dire warning from Pennsylvania health officials: hospital beds are running out quickly and staffing is short as cases of COVID-19 skyrocket. With the anticipated release of a COVID-19 vaccine, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still driving through it.

“There are just under 5,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.

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Levine says the numbers are likely to rise statewide.

“We have seen that a number of counties in Pennsylvania have only a few intensive care units beds, or actually no intensive care beds left in their counties,” Levine said.

“Delaware County is facing a critical point in the whole COVID pandemic,” Timothy Boyce said.

Boyce is the director of emergency services for Delaware County and though he says there are still ICU beds available there, the county is starting to see issues with health care staffing.

“The bed shortage is absolutely critical. It is the capacity of caregivers there to help you,” Boyce said.

As more frontline health care workers get sick, there simply aren’t enough of them to staff the beds needed at area hospitals.

“It’s not an infinite supply. We see it here every day in Delaware County. In our five major hospitals, maybe two are in divert where they’re not taking ambulances. There is no room at the inn,” Boyce said.

“We still need to admit people to the hospital so when there aren’t beds available upstairs, they back up into the emergency department,” Dr. Max Cooper said.

Cooper, an emergency room physician in our region, shared the dire descriptions of the scene inside his hospital via Twitter.

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“We’re seeing patients in areas where they generally are not seen. They’re backing up into the emergency department and we’re trying to offer the best care possible, but we’re running out of space,” Cooper said.

And so, like a broken record, knowing so-called COVID fatigue is setting in, both Cooper and Boyce have this advice to help limit the spread — socially distance yourself and wear a mask.

Boyce says there is another darker side to this, which is a dramatic increase in mental health issues. He says there has been a rise in depression and suicides in the country as this difficult year becomes too much to hand for many.

He suggests reaching out to loved ones, in a socially distant way, to make sure they’re OK.


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