County, Commonwealth Seeing Results of Xmas Gatherings in COVID Numbers
HARRISBURG JAN 9 2021 – Pennsylvania and Monroe County each appear to be firmly entrenched in a surge of COVID cases caused by gatherings that included family and friends beyond immediate household members during the Christmas holiday. According to AAA there was even more travel over the New Years' holiday. Consequences of activities in violation of the mitigation measures over New Years are yet to be felt.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed as of 12:00 a.m., January 9, there were 10,045 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 713,310. This is the second day this week new cases topped ten thousand, the fourth day above nine thousand. New cases are being added at a rate not seen since the end of the so-called “Thanksgiving surge”.
In Monroe County, during the first week of January, new cases have been confirmed at a pace more aggressive than ever before. The 137 new cases added today (for 6,983 total) marks the fourth day since January 1 that the county has added over 100 new cases.
At a press briefing with Governor Tom Wolf yesterday, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, said they are “watching these numbers very carefully,” concerned that a few weeks after a rise in cases, “we see an increase in hospitalizations.” She said the increase due to the holidays was not unexpected and her department is working with hospitals across the commonwealth to prepare for the coming anticipated increases in COVID admissions.
Hospital resources in the county have been challenged, but not broken this week. The last five days have seen the highest total daily hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic. There are currently 69 patients in county hospitals, one less than the record 70 reported Wednesday, January 6.
Of the county’s 26 currently staffed intensive care units, 16 are occupied by COVID patients, seven by non-COVID patients, leaving three available for new patients. The number of ICU beds in the county is flexible, with the local hospitals able to convert certain rooms into intensive care units if necessary. In addition, both hospitals are members of larger organizations, with the ability to secure additional resources, and transfer patients, in response to rapid developments. Although earlier this week, on Tuesday, January 5, the number of ICU beds available dropped to zero, the Department of Health does not consider the current availability of health care assets in Monroe County a concern. During January, there has been an average of slightly more than three ICU rooms available each day.
With hospitalizations lagging infections by a couple of weeks, similarly, COVID deaths generally lag hospitalizations by a couple of weeks. During the week surrounding Christmas, there were a dozen COVID-19 deaths recorded among county residents, roughly correlating to the post-Thanksgiving surge in cases. Monroe County has had five deaths in the last week, including one reported today, for a total of 214.
Currently, the rate of new infections across Monroe County is higher than in the commonwealth. Statewide, the “incidence rate” (the number of new cases per week per 100,000 people) is 331 (as of January 8), an increase of 8 points over the previous week. According to the Department of Health's Early Warning Dashboard, the Monroe County rate increased 51 points this week, to 381. Locally, The Boro has computed the incident rates based on state zip code figures as ranging from a low of 89 for Pocono Lake to a high of 516 for Mount Pocono. An incidence rate of 100 or more indicates uncontrolled community spread.