Coroner: Chesco seeing ‘sharp rise’ in COVID deaths

As the saying goes, folks in Chester County may be done with COVID, but COVID and especially the new Omicron variant are not done with Chester County: the county’s Coroner says that deaths are increasing from the virus this month — a majority coming from those who have not been vaccinated.

Dr. Christina VandePol, Chester County Coroner, issued a statement Tuesday outlining the spike in deaths — which correlates to an increase in cases across the county in recent weeks:

“The Chester County Coroner’s Office is reporting a sharp rise in COVID-19 deaths in recent weeks. In November, 31 deaths, or an average of about one/day, were reported. In December, 36 deaths have already been reported, with 3-4 deaths now being reported daily. Two-thirds of the December deaths have been in unvaccinated individuals. The median age of unvaccinated persons who died of COVID -19 was 69 years. Vaccinated individuals who succumbed to the virus were immunocompromised, many months past their last vaccination, or both. The median age for this group was 83.5 years. No COVID-19 deaths have been reported to date in someone who received a booster vaccination.”

The alarming difference this year, VandePol said, is the new demographic being seen in this year’s deaths versus last year, when very few people had access to the vaccine — younger and less likely to be living in assisted living facilities.

“This is different than last year,”  VandePol said. “We are not seeing many nursing home deaths. Most nursing home residents and staff are now vaccinated and stronger infectious disease controls have been put in place. This time around people are being admitted to our hospitals directly from home. Thanksgiving travel and gatherings probably played a role in what we’re now seeing, and that makes me fearful of what January will bring.”

Chester County’s COVID-19 website shows Chester County currently has a high transmission rate, with a test positivity rate of more than 10% in the past week. VandePol said data is not available to the Coroner’s Office on which variant of the virus is circulating in the community, but the Centers for Disease Control said on Tuesday that Omicron cases now make up about 73% of all cases nationally now.

“I sympathize with our hospital staff who are once again overwhelmed with COVID over the holidays. With two hospitals closing, the burden will be even greater. I urge everyone, no matter how tired you are of all things COVID, to consider our health care workers and take every precaution available, including getting vaccinated or boosted. Think of it as a holiday gift for those who do so much for us every day,” VandePol said.

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