Local Quarantine Relief Will Require Over 70% Reduction of New Cases in Region
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
HARRISBURG (APR 23 2020) - Over the last two days, Governor Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine have rolled out more detail about their planned phase-out of COVID-19 mitigation rules in Pennsylvania.
Last evening, the Governor announced that the state would be looking to the situation in counties and regions to determine if further relaxation of the mitigation efforts were merited.
Wolf laid out three stages of mitigation effort - Red, in which the entire state is in now; Yellow, in which some businesses could re-open and some relaxation of mitigation rules could take place; and Green, with the highest measure of mitigation relaxation.
The initial measure of whether a county would be considered for movement from the "Red" to the "Yellow" phase is the cumulative number of new infections over a rolling two-week period. The state's target is fewer than 50 new cases over two weeks for each 100,000 living in the county.
Monroe County, which has about 170,000 residents, would need to have 85 or fewer total new cases over a two week period for consideration. As of today, Monroe County has 308 new cases over the last 14 days -- almost four times the goal.
Today, we learned from Levine that the plan is to look at entire regions, as opposed to making a county-by-county decision on partial reopening. Levine said that they had not yet determined which counties would be included in which regions, and that she did not expect to make that determination until closer to May 8, the target date for the beginning of the phased-in partial reopening of Pennsylvania.
The Governor's detailed opening plan divided the state's counties into six regional groups based on their incidence rate. This grouping places Monroe County into a northeast region with Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Pike, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wayne, Susquehanna, and Wyoming Counties. According to a data analysis by the Morning Call newspaper, that region is currently experiencing new cases at a rate 75% above the target. Levine and Wolf said that, while statistics would lead the decision to consider lifting some restrictions, they would be tempered by judgment calls made by the governor and health department. Those subjective decisions would be based on unique conditions in each county and region.
Here in Monroe County, that consideration would necessarily include the estimated 20,000 residents who commute daily to New York City for work, as well as the situation in adjacent counties. Hospital assets in the region, the ability to test health care workers, and robust testing capacity to respond to flare-ups, would also go into the calculation. The state said it has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to create a proprietary dashboard which gathers and collates relevant data to guide the state in evaluating whether county and regional conditions were suitable to consider relaxation of mitigation rules.
The secretary today announced 1,369 new cases statewide, for a total of 37,053. Monroe County added nine new cases, for 1,024 total since the first case on March 6. The state reports that the county currently has three adult ICU beds available, two isolation rooms, and 20 regular hospital beds open; we have a total of 16 ventilators in the county, with three in use for COVID patients, and three for non-COVID patients. There was no change to the number of Mount Pocono residents who have tested positive, which remains at 29.