Michele Martz, President of UPMC Western Maryland in Cumberland and Mark Boucot, President & CEO of Garrett Regional Medical Center in Oakland and Potomac Valley Hospital in Keyser, are urging residents of the counties served by the three hospitals to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
COVID-19 has spiked once again in the region, and all three hospitals are seeing an increase in COVID-19 positive patients in outpatient and inpatient settings.
“Vaccines are one of the strongest tools we have to change the pandemic. Vaccines offer excellent protection against serious illness.,” said Martz. “You aren’t just getting the vaccine for yourself; you are doing it for those around you – your parents, your children, your neighbors, your coworkers and the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and all the other health care heroes who continue to work countless hours to save lives.”
“We are trying to keep our community as safe and as possible,” Boucot stated. “The COVID-19 vaccines available can mean the difference between life and death. We are seeing the impact of low vaccination rates. By getting vaccinated you are less likely to get COVID-19, but even if you have a breakthrough case, you are far less likely to be hospitalized.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Delta variant has caused the most recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. Rural areas have been particularly hard-hit, as vaccination rates in rural communities lag behind those of more heavily populated areas.
Also, according to the CDC high vaccination rates are proven to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus as well as its ability to mutate; the less that the virus spreads, the less likely that new variants will emerge.
“The CDC statistics regarding COVID’s impact demonstrate that people who are not vaccinated are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized with the virus, and 11 times more likely to die, than people who choose to be vaccinated,” Boucot stated. “Those statistics should make everyone stop and think. This virus doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t care who you are or where you live. If the opportunity presents itself, the virus will infect you.”
Rates of infection in the region served by the three local hospitals, which include 8 counties across Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, remain high. Garrett and Allegany counties lead the state of Maryland in rates of infection, while the state of West Virginia currently has some of the highest infection rates in the country. The Pennsylvania counties bordering Garrett and Allegany counties in Maryland have infection rates that mirror those of the region, and all have vaccination rates below 50%.
“It’s not too late to get vaccinated. Every person that chooses to get vaccinated can make a difference,” Martz said.