The CDC recently shortened the isolation time for health care workers who test positive for the coronavirus.By Jessica Guay

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Health care workers are bracing for a wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations following the holidays.

Allegheny Health Network is temporarily scaling back its surgical volumes because of the anticipated surge and other ongoing challenges, including staffing.

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“The numbers went down a wee little bit, it’s still high but down a wee little bit over Christmas. But now it’s starting to go back up again, and we expect it to continue to go up through the end of January, early February,” said Dr. Don Whiting, Allegheny Health Network’s chief medical officer.

A statement from AHN said in part, “Starting this week, we are limiting our operating room cases that require an inpatient bed to those prioritized by a combination of clinical condition and surgical indication. Ambulatory surgical cases at AHN facilities will continue as scheduled.”

“We are modifying the people who have non-urgent situations to go to an outpatient setting or to moving their cases a month or so down the road, whatever’s appropriate to accommodate the sickest of the sickest people. Because we’re really trying to keep ICU beds available, not only for COVID patients, but people who have other urgent medical issues,” Dr. Whiting said.

Staffing is another lingering issue for AHN and many other hospitals. Dr. Whiting said AHN needs as much staff as possible during this newest surge.

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The CDC recently shortened the isolation time for health care workers who test positive for the coronavirus.

“We’ve been looking at ways to do that based on the CDC recommendations. We’re in the final vetting stages of that because many health workers are vaccinated and if they are minimally symptomatic or asymptomatic, if they have a negative within five to six days of getting their initial test, they may be able to get back to work sooner,” he said.

COVID hospitalizations are looking different compared to this time last year when there was more of a need for ventilators and ICU beds.

“There’s less critical care compared to last year. We still have ventilator patients, we still have very sick patients but less so quantitative-wise than last year. There are a lot more people who have mild to moderate illness who need to be hospitalized and there’s also a lot of the people in the hospital who are unvaccinated, and that’s still about 80 percent,” said Dr. Whiting.

AHN asks people to call ahead if they think they need to go to the hospital. AHN’s dedicated 24/7 nurse on-call line is 412-NURSE-4-U. They can help identify what kind of care a patient may need. Dr. Whiting said people might be able to get care at a neighborhood hospital or urgent care center instead of going to the emergency room.

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A UPMC spokesperson said as of now, there are no changes in operations at UPMC hospitals. The spokesperson said UPMC saw a slight decrease in COVID-19 patients in recent days.