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Monroe a virus hot zone; St. Luke’s official: ‘Take it seriously’

Don Seiple, president of St. Luke’s Monroe Campus had a message for people of the Poconos Sunday: Take coronavirus seriously.

The health network called a news conference Sunday outside the hospital to discuss the high numbers in the area, which the network has now declared Monroe County as a hot zone because of the close connection to New York City.

“I’m concerned that people don’t appreciate the severity,” Seiple said. “This county is hit harder than other Pennsylvania communities.”

He said the vast majority of cases in the emergency room are COVID related, and more than half the patients in the hospital are there because of COVID issues.

“We are taking every measure to protect our most valuable resource - our employees.”

Saying he believes the county has reached the tipping point, he said the virus is putting a strain on the staff.

The numbers released at noon today bring Monroe County to 135, an increase from 106. Monroe also has one additional death, bringing the total to three.

Seiple believes the cases are underreported because people with mild cases are not tested, to preserve tests for staff who have been exposed and patients in the hospital.

“We are not overtesting,” he said.

The hospital has sent up a surge unit in the parking lot in front of the building in Bartonsville. It has not been needed yet, but Seiple said they are prepared to deal with emergency room overflow if needed.

The main thing is for the community to stay home. “Residents of Monroe County need to take social distancing seriously.”

Seiple said he’s had reports of people playing basketball on community courts, residents having parties and people going to stores to buy paint to work on projects in their homes.

He stressed the need for people who have been to New York City to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

Some local law enforcement people have been stopping cars, but he’d like to see a more concerted effort. Seiple said St. Luke’s is meeting with police Monday and has been in touch with Gov. Tom Wolf about restrictions.

“More law enforcement must come down from the governor,” Seiple said.

“Rep. Rosemary Brown has been an incredible advocate in Harrisburg. She’s been a real voice for the county.”

Don Seiple, president of St. Luke's Monroe Campus in Stroudsburg, says he is concerned that people are not taking COVID-19 seriously. MARTA GOUGER/TIMES NEWS
St. Luke's has set up a surge tent at the Monroe campus to handle overflow from the emergency room. MARTA GOUGER/TIMES NEWS