DuBOIS — As of Tuesday, Penn Highlands Healthcare has a dedicated COVID-19 Unit at Penn Highlands DuBois.

“We continue to update our policies and processes for the care of COVID-19 patients,” said Dr. Shawn Sheehan, medical director of Emergency Medicine for all of PHH and leader of the PHH COVID-19 Task Force, during a telephone news conference. “Our COVID-19 Unit contains the ability to change rooms into negative pressure, which is an additional layer of protection recommended for certain situations with patients that are diagnosed with COVID-19, and our staff has undergone additional training for their safety.”

Sheehan noted that a negative pressure room basically means that the bad air is filtered and then vented to the outside.

“All of the other Penn Highlands Hospitals are equipped with isolation rooms and can care for COVID-19 patients,” said Sheehan. “However, if the patient is in critical condition, they will need to be transferred to a higher level of care like Penn Highlands DuBois.”

As of noon Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed there are 756 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 4,843 in 60 counties. There are also 14 new deaths, bringing Pennsylvania’s total to 63. Clearfield County’s total remained at four positive cases, while Elk and Jefferson counties still had no confirmed positive cases.

“There are currently multiple confirmed COVID-19 tests located throughout our service area and as those numbers are constantly being updated, I would recommend that you look at the Pennsylvania Department of Health website for details by county,” said Sheehan. “Currently, there are no confirmed COVID-19 patients at any of the Penn Highlands Healthcare Hospitals and we continue to be in contact with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and we’re following the recommendations for safety and station care. We really receive updates from the DOH on daily and sometimes multiple times a day about how to respond appropriately.”

When asked for an update on the conditions of the four people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Clearfield County, Sheehan said, “All we can say at this point is that these patients are not being treated within any of our facilities and have not been treated in any of our facilities.”

While noting that not all testing comes through PHH, Sheehan said a total of 165 tests have been performed within the PHH system.

Despite the low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the PHH system, Sheehan cautioned the public against having a false sense of complacency.

“What we have confirmed is that this virus is serious. It can be life-threatening,” said Sheehan. “Even if it’s not life-threatening, those who get the virus have something they described as maybe the worst influenza of their life. They feel short of breath, and really can’t do much. The other data that we have learned from this virus is that on average, it can take five to six days to become symptomatic. However, there are individuals that it can take up to 14 days to become symptomatic. Many of us can be carriers and unaware of it, and maybe not even symptomatic. But if we’re carriers and bump into somebody who has health conditions, it can be deadly. So we have to take it very, very seriously.”

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