Pa. nears grim milestone: 30,000 COVID-related deaths since start of the pandemic

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A member of the medical staff attends to a patient at the COVID-19 ICU unit of the Dr. Abdulah Nakas General Hospital in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. Public mistrust of authorities in corruption-plagued Bosnia has created an opening for anti-vaccination movement even though the Balkan nation has the highest rate in Europe of coronavirus deaths and faces a growing number of new infections. So far, despite an abundance of coronavirus vaccines in Bosnia, just under 13 percent of its 3.3 million people had been fully immunized against Covid-19. (AP Photo)

HARRISBURG (WHTM) — Pennsylvania is nearing a grim milestone when it comes to COVID-related deaths. The state is closing in on 30,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Nathan Dincher is a critical care and emergency medicine doctor at UPMC. Despite his best efforts, many of the COVID patients he cares for may never recover.

“It’s a position you hope a lot of families never have to experience, it’s something we experience, unfortunately, very often in the ICU,” Dr. Dincher at UPMC said.

As Pennsylvania nears 30,000 COVID deaths, more than 17,000 of them occurred in hospitals, according to Department of Health data.

“You get lost in the numbers,” Dincher said. “Thirty-thousand, that sounds like a lot and then you see each patient that you’re caring for and how much effort and work you put in to keep those patients alive and each one of those is not just a number.”

Dr. Dincher said right now, most covid patients in the ICU are unvaccinated.

“That’s kind of the challenging thing about it, especially with this wave, it can be a little bit draining from an emotional standpoint,” Dincher said.

Hospitals are also starting to see younger patients.

“Especially these second waves, is the number of young people that have died with young families,” Dincher said.

However, there is some good news. New developments of treatments, like monoclonal antibody therapy, helps prevent patients from ending up in the ICU.

“I think with the advent of some of these therapies, we are seeing some better outcomes, we still don’t have a magic bullet for this,” Dincher said.

Dr. Dincher says the closest thing to a magic bullet is the vaccine.

“We wouldn’t be advocating for this so strongly and we wouldn’t be pushing it so strongly if we didn’t believe in it and we didn’t think it was safe,” said Dincer.

According to the Department of Health, between January and September 7 of this year, 97% of COVID-related deaths were in people who were only partially vaccinated, or not vaccinated at all. As of Thursday, October 7, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported a total of 29,814 deaths.

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