Jan 6, 2022 - COVID

Philly's top doctor warns COVID hospitalizations have "skyrocketed"

Illustration of a market arrow breaking through a pile of coronavirus cells.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations have "skyrocketed" in Philadelphia as Omicron spreads and at-home test kits remain in "very short supply," the city's top doctor said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Conditions at Philadelphia hospitals are extremely stretched due to COVID-related hospitalizations and staffing shortages, with many providers having to delay surgeries.

Driving the news: The city is averaging its highest average daily case count of the pandemic — more than 3,100 — and nearly 2 in 5 tests are coming back positive, Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said during a virtual news conference.

  • More than 29,800 people have tested positive for the virus during the past two weeks.

Yes, but: Bettigole said that number is a "massive undercount" because the city doesn't collect or count positive at-home tests.

What they're saying: "We are getting close to the kind of dire situation we all dread, in which treatable conditions can be fatal because our hospitals simply don’t have room or staff to take care of those that need help," Bettigole said.

  • More than 1,000 people are hospitalized in Philadelphia with COVID-19, most of whom are unvaccinated or don't have booster shots, she added.

Between the lines: At-home virus test kits remain difficult to access at pharmacies and stores in the city and across the country.

  • "They fly off the shelves very, very quickly," Bettigole said.
  • Plus: Bettigole reported that there have been instances of people selling at-home test kits on city streets.

What's next: A new virus testing site, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is expected to open this week at the Cibotti Recreation Center in Southwest Philadelphia.

  • It could conduct at least 500 tests a day, Bettigole said.

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