QUINCY — A spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations at Blessing Hospital is concerning to officials, but they believe they are ready if even more people require hospitalizations.
After several weeks of no or only one person hospitalized with the illness, eight people are hospitalized at Blessing with the virus as of Saturday.
The Adams County Health Department also reported four more confirmed cases Saturday, bringing the total of diagnosed cases since March to 152.
Dr. Christopher Solaro, chief of medicine at Blessing Hospital, said the hospital built in capacity for a large number of patients, and it is not near its limit.
"As we've learned from previous experiences with COVID, sometimes you'll see community cases come first, and that's followed by hospitalizations," Solaro said. "So I'm not too surprised given that our community cases have gone up, now we're seeing a slight uptick in hospitalizations."
At the onset of the pandemic, hospitals and other health care providers struggled to maintain stock of personal protective equipment in stock. In recent weeks, Blessing has been working to maintain its supply of PPE for its staff.
Maureen Kahn, president and CEO of the Blessing Health System, said PPE supply has been built up in the hospital and in storage.
"We've got enough to deal with what we have, but we work on it every day," Kahn said.
Hospital officials urged the community to take COVID-19 seriously.
"The simple things that we all can be doing is wearing a mask when we are out and when we are in larger groups and we can't be 6 feet apart," Kahn said. "Social distancing is still very important, and if you take a walk out in our community, you can observe that people are not wearing masks.
"They're out socializing. You can look at bleachers with sporting events going on. You can look at stores, and you can see people shopping and not wearing masks. Theses are little things that can help prevent transmission. It's the masks, the social distancing, the hand washing and cleaning of surfaces — little tiny things that will help break the transmission."
She said campaigns have restarted to try and encourage the community to wear their masks.
"I would think that's the number one thing this community needs to do is wear masks," said Tim Tranor, chief nursing officer at Blessing Hospital.
Solaro said a number of patients are testing positive for COVID-19 with minimal symptoms.
"Unlike influenza, which reliably gives you noticeable symptoms, COVID may not,"Solaro said. "We don't know sometimes who may have it and who may not, and that's why universal masking can protect everyone. It all boils down to the simple idea that this virus just wants to jump from one person to the other, and that's all it cares about. If we can stop that, we stop the pandemic."
Because of the increase in cases, Kahn said officials are discussing restoring more stringent visitor restrictions, which had been eased last month to allow patients to have one visitor over the age of 18 at a time.
"We are very concerned about the uptick in the community and the lack of compliance of people wanting to wear masks, and it's putting people at risk," she said. "They're coming in and exposing our staff to potential illness."
She hopes Blessing can avoid restoring the restrictions because of the benefits for patients when having a loved one visit.
Solaro said wearing a mask will help prevent regression of conditions in Adams County.
"The concern is if there's not compliance with something as simple as a mask, we're going to move backward in terms of our economy reopening, in terms of our restrictions in moving about the community and I don't think anyone looks forward to that day," he said.