Dashboard Data Shows Weekly Case Increases Statewide, Multiple Counties with High Percent-Positives
HARRISBURG (JUL 24 2020) – Governor Tom Wolf released a weekly status update detailing the state’s mitigation efforts based on the COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard comparing the seven-day period of July 17 – July 23 to the previous seven days, July 10 – July 16.
The dashboard is designed to provide early warning signs of factors that affect the state’s mitigation efforts. The data available on the dashboard includes week-over-week case differences, incidence rates, test percent-positivity, and rates of hospitalizations, ventilations and emergency room visits tied to COVID-19.
“The mitigation efforts we took last week were a proactive step to get in front of the rise of cases that we are continuing to see,” Wolf said. “We know that it will take a period of time for the mitigation efforts to be reflected in the data. One thing we know for certain is that we must continue to wear masks and practice social distancing. We need to recommit to the simple measures of mask-wearing and social distancing to stop the spread and go back to more freedoms.”
Wolf was referring to the restrictions placed on bars and restaurants last week. They were put into place after contact tracing data demonstrated that the significant resurgence of cases is linked to congregating patrons in bars and restaurants, drinking alcohol, socializing, and letting their guards down on mitigation measures, such as mask wearing and social distancing. The impact was shown to be less with respect to families and discrete small groups gathering for a meal. Therefore the measures adopted by the Secretary of Health were designed to address the "party" situations causing the outbreaks, as opposed to simply shutting down all restaurant and bar activity.
As of Thursday, July 23, the state has seen a seven-day case increase of 5,912, the previous seven-day increase was 5,579, alerting that cases are continuing to rise throughout the state. The statewide percent-positivity went up to 4.7% from 4.4% last week. Counties with concerning percent-positivity include Beaver (8.7%), Armstrong (8.6%), Franklin (7.7%), Mercer (7.6%), Allegheny (6.6%), Lawrence (6.2%), Chester (6.0%), Philadelphia (5.6%), Fayette (5.4%), York (5.4%), Dauphin (5.3%), Delaware (5.3%), Bedford (5.1%) and Greene (5.1%). Each of these counties bear watching as the state continues to monitor all available data.
Monroe County's positivity rate nearly doubled (2.1% to 4.1%) over the previous seven-day period, as did newly reported cases (27 to 50). Twenty-two of the new cases this week came in a single day from nursing homes in the county, which are under a state-mandated requirement to perform 100% testing of employees and residents.
Nate Wardle, spokesperson for the health department, responding to an inquiry from The Boro*, said the county is not on the department's radar as it monitors the general increase of community spread in Pennsylvania. "At this time, Monroe County is not an area where the state is seeing data that is of particular concern," Wardle said in his email to The Boro*'s editor. "We are indeed starting to see renewed community spread throughout of the state. That is why it is essential that mitigation efforts are taken, and enforced. We need people to wear masks, as ordered in the July 1 legal order, to social distance, wash hands and take precautions to protect themselves and others from this deadly virus."
Yesterday, the Department of Health also updated its travel recommendations, originally announced on July 2, to add Missouri and Wyoming to the list of states recommended for domestic travelers returning from to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania.
"It is important that people understand that this recommendation is in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. A significant number of recent cases have been linked to travel, and if people are going to travel, we need them to take steps to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community, and that involves quarantining," the department said in a statement released yesterday.
Wolf, the statement continued, "continues to prioritize the health and safety of Pennsylvanians through the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvanians should continue to take actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, regardless of the status of their county. This includes wearing a mask or face covering anytime they are in public. COVID-19 has been shown to spread easily in the air and contagious carriers can be asymptomatic."