coronavirus cell

Cambria County added three new cases of COVID-19 and Somerset County added two in Saturday's report from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The state announced 1,628 new positive tests, bringing the total number of cases in Pennsylvania to 31,069. It also reported 80 new deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 836.

Cambria County has 17 confirmed cases and one death. Somerset County also has 17 cases, but zero deaths. Bedford County’s count held steady at 14 cases and one death.

Indiana County reported its fourth COVID-19-related death associated with a nursing home or personal care home in as many days. Eleven of the county’s 47 confirmed cases and all four of its deaths involve residents of nursing homes or personal care homes. There were no cases reported as of Saturday in nursing homes or personal care homes in Cambria, Somerset or Bedford counties.

“COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in Pennsylvania,” said Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, “and even though the daily increases are not exponential, now is not the time to become complacent. We must continue to stay at home to protect ourselves, our families, our community.”

Available ventilators 

According to data provided by the Department of Health, as of Saturday, 2,614 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in Pennsylvania – about 8% of the total case count; 647 of those patients required the use of ventilators.

Approximately 48% of the state’s hospital beds, 41% of its intensive care unit beds and more than 70% of its ventilators were still available, Levine said.

According to the Department of Health, Cambria County has 60 ventilators; one was in use Saturday for a COVID-19 patient and 11 more were in use for other patients, leaving 48 available. The county also reportedly had 37 adult ICU beds and 44 airborne isolation room beds available.

Somerset County had 23 ventilators and Bedford County had eight ventilators, all of which remained available as of Saturday.

Approximately 1,558 of the state’s COVID-19 cases are health-care workers, Levine said. 

Testing site opens

The state on Saturday announced the creation of a mass testing site at Mohegan Sun Casino in Wilkes-Barre for first responders, health care workers and senior citizens with COVID-19 symptoms. Levine said that the site was placed in the northeastern part of the state because “we continue to see increased case counts there.” Testing there will begin Monday.

Levine said testing must be increased to get a better picture of how the virus is spreading across the state before existing social distancing measures can be relaxed.

“These types of mass testing sites really offer a path forward,” she said, referring to the new Wilkes-Barre testing site. “We’re looking to expand testing throughout Pennsylvania as much as possible.”

In response to a question about whether it’s the job of the state or the federal government to expand testing, Levine said that while Pennsylvania is dependent on the federal government for resources, it’s up to the state to plan how to deploy those resources.

“I think it’s very important for the federal government to provide supplies and resources that we need in order to do that testing,” she said, noting that the state’s ordering is done through the federal Centers for Disease Control.

“We are dependent on them for much of our resources – these chemicals and reagents. They need to supply those to us, and then it’s our job to come up with a plan to expand testing in Pennsylvania.”

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.