State at 'critical point' in COVID-19 fall resurgence

HARRISBURG – Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said that Pennsylvania is reaching a “critical point” in the COVID-19 pandemic’s fall resurgence.

The state reported 2,909 new cases on Sunday and another 3,402 new cases on Monday, for a two-day total of 6,311 new cases.

The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 also hit 1,827 on Monday. That’s less than the 3,000 people hospitalized at the height of the spring outbreak, but the number of people hospitalized had increased by about 500 over the prior Monday, she said.

“We are at a critical point,” Levine said, calling the data “sobering.”

Levine said that the health care system is not overwhelmed but there are hospitals in rural parts of the state that are starting to feel “challenged” by the increased need for care from COVID-19 patients.

“It is quite clear that COVID-19 cases are occurring throughout our communities,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “We need all Pennsylvanians to take a stand and answer the call to protect one another. We need Pennsylvanians to be united in wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, washing our hands and avoiding gatherings. It is only by working together that Pennsylvanians can prevent the spread of the virus.”

As of Thursday, the state saw a seven-day case increase of 15,989 cases. The previous seven-day increase was 13,486 cases, indicating 2,503 more new cases across the state over the past week compared to the previous week.

Levine added that the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has also been going up, which she said is “one indication that the increase in cases is not just from an increase in testing” but reflects that COVID-19 is becoming more prevalent in communities across the state.

Fifty-four of the state’s 67 counties reported increased numbers of new COVID-19 cases last week, she said.

Only three counties in the state – Cameron, Forest and Sullivan – had what’s considered low transmission rates of COVID-19, according to the state’s Early Warning Dashboard.

The statewide percentage of tests that were positive went up to 6.9% from 6.1% last week. The state called the percent-positivity “concerning” in 52 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and said those counties and the state as a whole “bears watching.”

Bedford County had the highest percentage, 17.5%. Others in Western Pennsylvania on that list were Lawrence (12.2%), Venango (11.8%), Butler (8.1%), Erie (7.4%), Mercer (7.0%) and Crawford (6.1%).

Also Monday, the Department of Health updated its travel recommendations, originally announced on July 2, to add Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia and Massachusetts and remove Louisiana from the list of states where it is recommended that travelers to them should quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania.

Three neighboring states – Ohio, West Virginia and New Jersey – were added to a list of bordering states in which non-essential travel is highly discouraged.

THE HERALD contributed to this story.

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