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Hospitalizations rise in county

The state Department of Health reported 81 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths for Cumberland County Tuesday.

Tuesday’s report included 271 total test results, with 17 probable cases. Comparing just the number of negative tests (190) and confirmed positive tests (64), the county saw 25.1% of its tests come back positive.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 increased to 67 in Tuesday’s report, up six from Monday’s report, with 14 adults in intensive care and 10 on ventilators. Five adult ICU beds remain available in the county and 25 of 89 ventilators in the county are in use.

The county’s seven-day average of cases now sits at 87.86. Its 14-day per capita rate sits at 458.22.

The southcentral region reported 783 cases Tuesday, with Franklin County reporting 183 cases, York County 153 and Dauphin County 137. The region reported 15 deaths, with four each in Juniata and York counties.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labels Cumberland County as having “high” transmission of the virus — the highest level, which is the transmission level for every county in the state. Community transmission is determined by the number of new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days and the positivity rate over the last seven days, so the classification could vary from day to day based on those numbers.

The entire state is considered to have “high” transmission, according to the latest update from the CDC.

In data updated Monday evening, the CDC says Cumberland County has seen 58.3% of its total population of 253,370 become fully vaccinated. For the county’s vaccine eligible population of people ages 12 and older, 67.3% have been fully vaccinated.

As of Monday the CDC reports 67.2% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated.

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DOH: Data shows unvaccinated people comprise majority of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations in Pennsylvania

Data released by the Department of Health Tuesday shows that unvaccinated people make up the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state between Jan. 1, 2021, and Sept. 7.

According to the data, 94% of the reported cases of COVID-19 in that time period were among unvaccinated or people who were not fully vaccinated. Vaccinated people accounted for 6%, or, 35,389, of the 639,729 positive cases identified in that time frame.

COVID vaccine distribution began in Pennsylvania in mid-December.

Data on hospitalizations comes from 55% of all hospitals and 69% of acute care hospitals in Pennsylvania, but Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam noted in a news conference Tuesday in Lancaster that the data covers 80% of the hospital beds.

That data shows that 95% of reported COVID-19 hospitalizations were among unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. A total of 34,468 people have been hospitalized between Jan. 1 and Sept. 7. Of that number, only 1,820 were fully vaccinated.

“My hope is is that this data encourages everyone who has not been vaccinated to speak to their doctor about getting the vaccine as soon as possible,” Beam said.

“The data that we have is showing once again that even as the more transmissible delta becomes more widespread, the COVID vaccines are safe, are effective and help prevent serious illness and death,” she said.

Penn State Health on Monday unveiled a dashboard detailing statistics concerning hospitalizations among its four hospitals, including Holy Spirit Medical Center in Camp Hill.

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There are currently 20 unvaccinated patients hospitalized at Holy Spirit, according to data updated Monday. Of those, five are in critical care and three are on ventilators. By contrast, the medical center has four vaccinated COVID-19 patients with one in critical care and one on a ventilator.

The numbers are more dramatic in the system as a whole. Of the 92 COVID-19 patients in a Penn State Health facility, 78 are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated. Of those, 25 are in the ICU and 14 are on ventilators. Of the 14 fully-vaccinated patients, two are in an ICU and one is on a ventilator.

There’s also a difference in the average age of admitted patients based on vaccination status. Dr. Michael Ripchinski, chief clinical officer for Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, said the average age of unvaccinated patients admitted to Lancaster General is 56 while the average age of the vaccinated is 71.

The data released by the Department of Health also shows that 97% of COVID-related deaths between Jan. 1 and Sept. 7 were among unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. Of the 6,472 deaths reported in that time frame, only 213 were among fully vaccinated people.

“Compared to unvaccinated people, fully vaccinated folks are 8 times less likely to die of COVID-19,” Beam said.

Health officials say the data shows that vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths at a time when the health care system is facing a surge in cases.

“Hospitals are taxed right now. The number one thing we do is get vaccinated so we don’t tax these hospitals further,” Beam said.

Ripchinski said he’s “absolutely concerned” about the surge in Lancaster County that averages 80 hospitalizations per hospital and equals the surge last April. Central Pennsylvania, as a whole, features a positivity rate above 10% and incidence rates at or near 200 per 100,000.

To be in control, the Department of Health wants to see that rate at 50 out of 100,000.

“Vaccines provide us with a way out of this. Vaccines enable us to return to normal,” Ripchinski said.

Top GOP lawmakers had requested the data on breakthroughs. The Republicans, who have been skeptical of Wolf’s pandemic measures — including, most recently, his statewide mask mandate for schools — wrote to Wolf last week that “all Pennsylvanians, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, deserve to know how their respective group is performing.”

Wolf promised his administration would release the information, and went further.

Noting that vaccination efforts are lagging in some areas of the state — including those with GOP representation — he vowed to release vaccination reports by legislative district “so that the General Assembly and public can better understand how well each member’s district is performing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Carlisle moves ahead on making marijuana ordinance permanent

The Carlisle Borough Council last week instructed its staff to begin work on an ordinance that will take steps to continue its policy of giving police the option to charge possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana paraphernalia as a summary offense.

The council adopted the ordinance in December 2020 as a pilot program to assess the benefits socially and economically. The ordinance is set to expire at the end of this year.

Though short-handed as “decriminalization,” councilman Sean Shultz stressed that the ordinance does not decriminalize the use of marijuana.

“I think potentially the terminology that we use has an effect on people’s behavior,” he said. “I know of at least a couple of instances where people have thought we had truly decriminalized the use of cannabis in public settings.”

The ordinance gave officers an option to charge individuals at a summary rather than a misdemeanor level because of the impact a misdemeanor charge can have on a person’s life and the “disparate impact it has among people of color,” Shultz said.

The use and possession of marijuana is still a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania.

Councilman Jeff Stuby, who introduced the measure, said he has not seen anything to change his mind about the ordinance and, at this point, believes the ordinance should be continued without the monthly reporting requirements that it currently includes.

Borough staff is expected to bring an amendment to the October borough council meeting for discussion.

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Newville, Shippensburg men charged in January attack on US Capitol

Two central Pennsylvania men were arrested Monday and accused of participating in the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this year, with their social media communications cited by federal prosecutors as evidence against them.

A U.S. Justice Department news release said Marshall Neefe, 25, of Newville, and Charles Bradford “Brad” Smith, 25, of Shippensburg, both face felony charges over their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.

Prosecutors said Neefe told Smith in early November he was “getting ready to storm D.C.” and then later wrote to him, “We goin? ... Cause hot damn son I really wanna crack some commie skulls.”

Details were not available late Tuesday on the federal courts’ online records system. Messages were left Tuesday seeking comment from federal public defenders in Harrisburg and at a phone number linked to Neefe.

Prosecutors alleged that both men entered Capitol grounds. They said Neefe carried a wooden club and helped push a metal sign into a defensive police line. Neefe is also alleged to have later sent a Facebook message that said he wanted police officers who hurled batons or maced them to “be lined up and put down.”

Smith is purported to have sent a message on Facebook afterward saying “we literally chased them into hiding” and making an apparent reference to stopping certification. The mob had been attempting to stop Congress from certifying the presidential election results, but was unsuccessful.

Prosecutors said Smith used Facebook to transmit a video in which he said, “We stormed the gates of the Capitol.”

Neefe is accused of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers while using a dangerous weapon; carrying out an act of physical violence on Capitol grounds; and other charges. Smith’s charges include disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.