What a Difference a Fortnight Makes - PA & Monroe COVID Going Up, Allegheny Pulls Back on Reopening
HARRISBURG (JUL 3 2020) - On June 17, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that the commonwealth's mitigation measures had been lauded by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") as one of only three states with declining COVID-19 infections over a 42-day period; Allegheny County announced its first day with zero new cases; and Monroe County had only one new case, with a daily new case average of 2.14.
Today, a little over two-weeks later, Pennsylvania is one of 36 states with COVID Cases on the rise; Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, with 166 new cases today, closed all bars, restaurants, and casinos for at least one week, limited public gatherings and events to 25, and asked residents to voluntarily adopt stay-at-home procedures; and Monroe County had two double-digit increases this week
Today Pennsylvania announced 667 new COVID-19 cases -- the tenth day in the last two weeks with new cases over the 600 mark. By comparison, that happened only five times in the two weeks before June 17. The state has had 88, 741 total cases and 6,746 deaths, including the 34 announced today.
Monroe County added 2 new total cases today, for 39 cases in seven days, and average new case rate of 5.71 per day. Monroe had one additional COVID death yesterday, for a total of 109. The County is still doing better than the state, but the trend is steadily up.
On the state's early warning dashboard for the county, Monroe's metrics are going in the wrong direction in all but one category. The dashboard is updated weekly, the last update being today. It is a tool provided by the state to summarize the local trends and permit local and state officials to identify potential resurgence of extensive community spread of the disease.
The changes in Pennsylvania's coronavirus incidence rate led the Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine to order universal masking in the state on this past Wednesday, July 1. Under the order, everyone, with few exceptions, over two years old must wear a mask whenever they leave their home. The state liquor control and agriculture agencies have told restaurants and bars that they will be fined and could lose their licenses if they fail to enforce the use of masks and social distancing in their establishments. The state's insurance secretary has warned businesses that insurance companies may decline coverage of any sort of claim for any business which fails to enforce masking, social distancing, and other mitigation procedures required by the various mitigation orders issued by the governor and health secretary.
Also on July 1, the state supreme court ruled in favor of the state's mitigation efforts, rejecting challenges from republican members of the state legislature. In doing so, the high court ruled that nor only were the mitigation orders lawful, but they they also had the "full force of law". In Monroe County, the district attorney, David Christine, announced that he would not enforce the orders. Accordingly, local police have refused to issue citations or warning. Christine did not respond to request for comment in light of the supreme court ruling and the increase in cases requiring more stringent measures. Christine's refusal to enforce the law does not impact the ability of the state agencies to enforce them against licensees and for insurance companies to invoke commercial policy terms requiring the business to operate in compliance with law or lose all coverage.
Yesterday, the state asked residents returning from, or visitors traveling from, 15 states with spikes in COVID-19 cases to quarantine for 14 days. The states impacted were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.