Monroe County Nearing First COVID Gating Criteria to Yellow Phase, But Region Lags
HARRISBURG (MAY 14 2020) - Monroe County's rolling two-week average of new cases inches tantalizingly close to a total of new cases below 50 cases for every 100,000 residents, which is 85 cases. As of April 14, according to the state Department of Health, Monroe County has identified 113 new COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks. One week ago, that number was 179 and two weeks ago 229.
Once the county hits the so-called "gating criteria" of 85 new cases over a two week period, it becomes eligible for consideration for movement into the so-called "yellow phase", also known as the "aggressive mitigation" phase. The county is now in the "red" or "stay-at-home" phase.
The other factors to be evaluated include available hospital resources to care for COVID patients in the event of an outbreak, as well as caring for non-COIVD patients. The county also needs to have sufficient personal protective equipment for hospital employees and frontline workers, as well as ventilators in case there is another resurgence of patients. There also needs to be the ability to engage in contact tracing, to identify those with whom the COVID-19 patients have been in contact. The state also requires that there be sufficient testing capacity to test those contacts, to identify, and isolate the infected to prevent a resurgent outbreak. The testing capacity needs to be sufficient to test symptomatic patients, the vulnerable populations, and essential health care, first responder, and front-line workers.
So, moving to the yellow phase is not only about the number of patients, it's about those other factors: hospital capacity, personal protective equipment, availability of contact tracing, and robust testing capacity. All the parts have to be working to move from the “stay-at-home” red phase, to the yellow “aggressive mitigation” phase of this response to the pandemic.
The decisions are also complicated by the natural interactions among counties in a region. Workers and consumers routinely move between county lines - “the virus does not respect county borders,” Governor Tom Wolf says frequently. Therefore the analysis for moving a county from red to yellow will involved the relative status of adjacent or nearby counties. Some counties have no or limited hospital facilities. Residents there will accordingly rely on the medical assets of nearby counties for care. Therefore the factors involving testing, hospital capacity, and the like, necessarily cross county lines.
Monroe County is in the Northeast Health Region, which comprises Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton, Wayne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Lackawanna, and Luzerne Counties. As of the 14th, the NE Region has a two-week total of 1909 new cases, or 1,105 above the gating criteria of 804 for the region. Decisions to open are not strictly confined to regions; in each of the last two openings, not every county in the opened regions was moved to the yellow phase. Here are the other statistics released today by the Department of Health:
State and local COVID statistics released today:
Pennsylvania Cases: 59,636 (+938) Deaths:4,218 (+275) Monroe County Cases: 1,240 (+12) Deaths: 69 (+4) NE Region total cases: 11,630 (+142) NE Region 2 week cumulative: 1,909
Monroe County 2 week cumulative: 113 Mount Pocono Cases: 35 (+0)
Monroe County Hospital Assets
Available Adult ICU Beds: 2
Available Medical/Surgical Beds: 10
Available Pediatric ICU Beds: 0
Available Airborne Isolation Room Beds: 0
Total Number of Vents:8
Ventilators in Use (COVID-19): 0
Ventilators in Use (non COVID-19): 1