Cambria County’s COVID-19 case total jumped by 11 on Friday, with 970 new cases reported across Pennsylvania, the Department of Health reported.

There were 13 additional deaths statewide, bringing the state totals to 112,048 cases and 7,189 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Also on Friday, the health department announced a new program that will more than double the state’s COVID-19 contact tracing workforce.

In this region, Somerset and Blair counties each added three new cases, Bedford County added one, Clearfield County added nine, Indiana County added six, Westmoreland County added 27 and Fayette County added 24 new cases. Westmoreland County reported its 46th COVID-19 death.

Allegheny County is reporting an increase of 244 cases, and Philadelphia County is reporting an increase of 130 cases.

Of the new cases in Allegheny County, 30 cases have specimen collection dates from more than two weeks ago. At least 77 are known to be among long-term care residents and staff, where mandatory testing has been completed and results continue to roll in.

The health department estimates 75% of COVID-19 patients have recovered, which is about 84,000 individuals.

Nearly 20,000 residents in long-term care facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, with almost 5,000 deaths. Friday’s report shows 19,484 resident cases and 3,934 cases among employees of the homes, affecting 850 facilities in 61 counties. There have 4,904 deaths in residents of the homes.

Friday’s report brings this region’s totals to 250 cases and three deaths in Cambria County, 120 cases and two deaths in Somerset County, 128 cases and four deaths in Bedford County, 204 cases and three deaths in Blair County, 131 cases and no deaths in Clearfield County, 387 cases and six deaths in Fayette County, 256 cases and four deaths in Indiana County and 1,409 cases and 46 deaths in Westmoreland County.

For the week, Indiana County saw a 33% increase in total cases and is reporting that 7.2% of all those tested were positive for COVID-19. Cambria County saw a 22% increase in total cases, but had a 1.8% positivity rate. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has said anything above a 5% positivity rate merits watching.

Somerset County’s positivity rate was 1.6% on the week. Bedford’s rate was 3.7% and Blair’s was 3.4%.

The new partnership announced Friday will add 1,000 contact tracing staff across the state.

The nearly $23 million federally funded contract with Insight Global through the health department will cover recruitment, hiring, training and wages for the contact tracers, who represent a vital part of tracking and controlling infectious disease.

“Across Pennsylvania, we have dedicated public health professionals who truly are the backbone of contact tracing, and this expansion of the contact tracing team will only support, strengthen and expand their efforts,” Levine said. “This project will bolster and diversify our public health workforce all while coordinating and mobilizing efforts in order to conquer any potential surge in COVID-19 cases.”

The hourly rates for these positions range from $18 to $22 for contact tracers and $22 to $24 for both the contact tracing supervisors and care resource managers. These positions will be offered in both full- and part-time capacities and will provide ongoing skill development and training for those interested in career pathways into public health, the department said in a press release.

Recruitment will focus on workers who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic while working with local communities to ensure that individuals hired represent the diversity of the state. All positions will be remote and supported through internet access and technology, including computers and headsets. Those who volunteered through ServPA will be notified of these paid opportunities.

The additional 1,000 contact tracing staff will join 654 contact tracers already working across the state. 

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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