Hollidaysburg Herald - Reliable News for Hollidaysburg

By Rick Boston
Staff Writer 

Blair County COVID-19 Deaths Reach Triple Digits

Coroner Urges Mask-Wearing Compliance

Series: Coronavirus | Story 116

Last updated 12/18/2020 at 3:02pm

Herald file photo

Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross

Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross reported last week that the death toll in Blair County due to COVID-19 reached 149. Ross said of those 149 deaths, 111 were Blair County residents.

Ross said she expects the recent spike in cases to continue and said everyone needs to follow the directives aimed at mitigating the virus's spread.

"We are in the worst of it right now." Ross said. "It is bad practice to not wear a mask and to not do social distancing at this time."

Ross said people need to take the virus seriously and the reality of it should not be debated.

"We have people dying," she said. "This is not something that people can just look at and say, 'whatever.' We have 149 deaths in the county. You can see that."

Ross, who is also a nurse in the emergency department at UPMC Altoona, said the frontline workers are being pushed to their limit. She said in these times, people need to be smart about when to go to the hospital because it could endanger their health further.

Fire, EMS and nurses, everyone is "stressed to the max," she said. "Avoid the emergency department at all costs because it is COVID-positive everywhere."

Ross said that some nursing homes are adding to the already stressed ERs by sending COVID patients to the hospital, sometimes against a "do not resuscitate" (DNR) order.

"If a patient is a DNR and they get COVID, they should not be getting transferred into the ER." Ross said. "They are just exposing everyone by doing that. I know that nursing homes feel they are not equipped for it, but we can't do anything for them either. The ER is not going to be able to make them any more comfortable than the nursing homes can."

Ross said that from the standpoint of the coroner's office, patients with DNRs who are COVID-positive should stay put in the nursing home, and that sending them to the hospital goes against their wishes.

"Someone who has directed that they do not want resuscitated, does not want measures done above and beyond, should not be taken to the ER." Ross said. "It goes against their wishes to send them to the ER where they are going to draw blood, do tests, maybe intubate when a patient does not want that. These people didn't want that. They wanted to die with dignity and I believe if they get COVID or it's their heart or whatever, they should be able to peacefully die where they are."

Ross said her office is following up on cases where COVID-19 patients with DNRs were sent to the ER against their wishes. She said following a person's DNR directive not only respects the patient but will also relieve some of the pressure on emergency rooms.

"The emergency departments at Altoona, Nason, Tyrone, everywhere is just pushed to the limit around the clock," Ross said. "Intensive care units are stressed. Everyone is at their limits."


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