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As Gov. Tom Wolf prepares to start at least part of the state on the road to economic normalcy, matters are beginning to return to more-normal conditions across the UPMC Health System, including UPMC Bedford.

Jan Fisher, president of UPMC Bedford and UPMC Altoona, said during a telephone interview Monday that the hospitals are ramping up procedures that had been delayed by the state’s order designed to assure adequate space and emergency equipment for staff.

“Patient volumes have increased,” Fisher said of the reschedulings. “It’s safe for them to come back to the hospital, and we want them to come back and access care.”

The feared crush of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak never materialized here, Fisher said.

“We’re very pleased that we did not see the volumes that other parts of the country did,” Fisher said. “Bedford certainly did not see the influx of patients at the hospital.”

While some COVID-19 patients did present with symptoms at Bedford, only one was admitted as an inpatient, and that person was later transferred to Altoona, Fisher said.

According to the state Department of Health, as of Monday there were 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bedford County, with 1 death. There were 241 subjects who tested negative for the virus.

Blair County’s numbers included 25 confirmed cases, 1,131 negatives and no deaths.

As the immediate COVID emergency eases, UPMC and other hospitals are focusing much of their attention on increased testing.

Dr. Dave Burwell, vice president and head of the quality department for UPMC’s Bedford and Altoona hospitals, explained that all people who exhibit symptoms are being tested, and a novel approach is being utilized to testing those without symptoms who are at medium risk and high risk as well.

Thus far, the pre-procedure testing has turned up no positives, Burwell said.

“We are fully committed to doing symptomatic testing, and certain asymptomatic testing,” he said.

Burwell said UPMC has “developed collection sites that are very robust. For our portion of the criteria, we feel that we are quite capable.”

The Bedford County area has found itself in something of a “catch-22,” where testing is concerned. It has been pointed out that the area lags other parts of the state in testing. But Burwell said that guidelines established when the outbreak emerged that require a physician’s order for a test are still in place, so only those who are symptomatic or are contemplating a procedure are being tested.

Fisher reported that the limited surgical schedule at UPMC Bedford, which reduced procedures to two days a week, is still in place. But with more procedures being scheduled, “We’re watching it closely.”

Contact Paul Rowan at prowan@bedfordgazette.com, 623-1151, ext. 140.

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