Tensions rise over masks as virus grips smaller U.S. cities

FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2020, file photo, registered nurse Chrissie Burkhiser cleans an emergency room suite after treating a COVID-19 patient at Scotland County Hospital in Memphis, Mo. Arguments over mask requirements and other restrictions have turned ugly in recent days as the deadly coronavirus surge engulfs small and medium-size cities that once seemed a safe remove from the outbreak. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Over the last 28 days, Mercer County's new weekly COVID-19 case counts have declined almost 52%.

During the seven-day span from Jan. 31 through Saturday, Feb. 6, the state Department of Health reported 179 new cases in Mercer County. That's a steep decrease from the figure from four weeks ago, from Jan. 10-16, when the county had 371 new cases.

During the week of Jan. 17-23, the county had 278 new cases and 229 from Jan. 24-22.

The county's daily average week-to-week declined from 53 (Jan. 10-16), to 39.7 (Jan. 17-23), to 32.7 (Jan. 24-30) to 25.6 (Jan. 31-Feb. 6).

Nationally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 107,489 new cases, the lowest single-day figure since 106,980 on Nov. 8.

While new case counts are decreasing, fatalities remain high nationally.

After a four-day stretch with 15,931 deaths — an average of nearly 4,000 per day — the CDC reported 2,820 fatalities in Sunday's report. However, weekend numbers are often lower than figures released for weekdays, because some deaths and new cases go unreported.

Hospital readiness

Demand on hospitals in Pennsylvania continued to decline during the weekend.

COVID-19 hospital admissions fell below 3,000 at 2,913 — more than 2,500 fewer than the figure a month ago, a 47% decline.

Hospitals in the state had 592 patients in intensive care units, and 329 using ventilators. The same figures for Jan. 8 were 1,113 in intensive care and 625 on ventilators, decreases of 47.8 and 47.4, respectively, over the last month.

The latest rolling 14-day averages for hospitalizations were 3,389.6 per day. ICU bed availability was 721.8, the highest level since Dec. 8.

Ventilator demand inched closer to 400 per day, with an average of 405.2 ventilators in use per day. The 14-day rolling average for ventilator use has not been less than 400 since Nov. 30.

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