CHOP COVID Lab Projects Monroe County Will Nearly Triple Incidence Rate Before Christmas
(HARRISBURG NOV 27 2020) - In a week which began with the White House Coronavirus Task Force warning to Pennsylvania of "aggressive, rapid, and expanding community spread" and the resultant increased emphasis on current mitigation strategies by the state, Monroe County not only once again saw increases in case counts, incidence rates, and positivity numbers but faces a warning that without greater compliance with mitigation guidance, current numbers would be quickly outpaced before Christmas.
The determination that the county has "substantial" community spread is based on the county's incidence and positivity rates. The 'incidence rate' is the number of new cases per 100,000 of population over a seven-day period. The 'positivity rate' refers to the percent of positive coronavirus tests in a seven-day period.
Under guidelines developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, based on CDC and White House Coronavirus Task Force recommendations, a county is considered to have substantial transmission of the virus if the incidence rate is at least 100, or if the positivity rate hits 10%.
In the latest report, Monroe County again exceeds both measurements. Four weeks ago, Monroe County's incidence rate was a little over 44 and its positivity rate was 5.5%. In the first week of November the incidence rate more than doubled, to 96.8, while the percent of positive coronavirus tests jumped to 8.2%. Last week, both of those measures shifted upwards. to an incidence rate of 153.4 and a positivity rate of 10.1%. This week, the county's incidence rate surged to 228.9, and positivity was 11.6%.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's (CHOP) Policy Lab has been monitoring coronavirus in hundreds of counties across the country, including Monroe. This week, it projected that the county would see an incidence rate of 557.3 by December 23 without substantial improvement in adherence to mitigation guidance -- mainly universal masking and social distancing, including avoiding non-essential travel.
With the combination of new cases exceeding the spring surge numbers and the poor current adherence to mitigation rules, CHOP estimates the county would see 100 or more new cases a day by December 8, reaching 147 cases a day by December 23. As of today, the county has only three ICU beds available, according to the Department of Health's COVID Dashboard. Forty COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in the county, with nine being in ICU rooms and four on ventilators.
On the Top of the Mountain, the case numbers today look like this: Blakeslee - 86 (+22 since 11/13), Long Pond - 64 (+11 since 11/13), Mount Pocono - 71 (+20 since 11/6), Pocono Pines - 18 (+0 since 11/13), Pocono Lake - 33 (+6 since 11/13), Pocono Summit - 49 (+3 since 11/13), Tobyhanna - 301 (+57 since 11/13).
As of last Friday, a revised mask order is now in effect and requires masks indoors or in enclosed spaces where other people who are not in the individual’s household are in the same space, irrespective of physical distance. In addition:
Masks are required outdoors with non-household members if unable to maintain sustained physical distance of at least six feet;
Masks are required to participate in an indoor/outdoor event, gathering or group setting if someone is present who is not a member of your household; and
Businesses must require all to wear a mask or face shield and take reasonable steps to enforce these provisions.
There is an exception for “working alone,” which includes someone inside an office or inside a cubicle “with walls high enough to block the breathing zone of all people walking by, and the worker’s activity will not require anyone to come inside of the worker’s workspace.”
When asked about enforcement, Levine said that businesses were required to enforce the orders, however, not when it is unsafe to do so or when it would escalate a situation.
Keep in mind that a number of the exemptions from the earlier mask order remain in place, including, individuals with medical conditions, where wearing a mask would create an unsafe working condition, an individual working alone, individuals communicating with the hearing impaired or another disability, and children under two years.
Face covering is broadly defined in the order and includes any covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or wrapped around the lower face. Face shields continue to be acceptable as an alternative to a face covering. The July 15 Face Covering order has been rescinded by the new order. Click here to read the new order.
In addition, indoor group events, such as meetings, are limited to ten percent of normal occupancy.