Pennsylvania's current surge in COVID-19 cases may be showing up in a younger, healthier age group, but older people and nursing-home residents could be hit again, a state official warned.
When COVID-19 first appeared in Pennsylvania, it was found in younger people, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Monday during a press briefing.
“Then COVID-19 spread through the communities, impacting congregate settings like nursing homes, where most of the most serious illnesses and deaths have occurred,” Levine said.
The pattern may be repeating itself, she warned.
“There are things we can do right now to stop the cycle in the first place,” she said. “Wear a mask when you are out in public.”
She urged everyone to consider leaving stores or restaurants where people are not wearing masks or if social distancing is not possible. Those who travel to hot spots in other parts of the country are advised to voluntarily isolate for two weeks upon returning to Pennsylvania.
“As much as our efforts are about laws and mandates and regulations, they are actually mostly about your choices,” Levine said.
Despite recent increases, especially in southwestern Pennsylvania, there are no plans to close businesses or impose new statewide restrictions.
She said Allegheny County Health Department's limits on in-person alcohol sales and indoor dining at bars and restaurants represented a better approach. But a proposal to expand those limits to neighboring counties, including Westmoreland, was put on hold after reviewing the current data, Levine said.
'Smart daily habits'
Pennsylvania's current upward trend in new cases does not compare to exponential increases in Florida, Texas and other hard-hit states, Levine said. The public response to Pennsylvania's initial surge helped keep hospitals from being overwhelmed and has allowed all the state's counties to reopen in the green phase.
“Our actions as a community will determine whether we can stay at work,” Levine said, urging all Pennsylvanians to protect those around them.
“Think about yourself,” she said. “Think about your families. Think about your communities and others and make those smart choices – those smart daily habits.”
Cambria and Blair counties each added one COVID-19 case Monday, among 328 new cases statewide, the health department reported.
Although the new case count is lowest since June 15, the report did not include any new cases from Philadelphia and only 71 from Allegheny County, which were each reporting more than 100 new cases a day last week. Both have local health departments that report to the state.
Levine said delayed reports from private testing services could also be contributing.
“We are expecting a data jump at some point this week,” Levine said, conceding that the daily numbers can get “jerky” because of delayed test reports.
Rise in cases, not deaths
There were seven additional deaths reported Monday, bringing state totals to 95,742 cases and 6,911 deaths associated with COVID-19.
In addition to the Cambria and Blair county cases, Clearfield County had two new cases in Monday's report. Fayette and Indiana counties each had six new cases and Westmoreland added 16 cases.
No additional deaths were reported for any county in the region.
Statewide, the number of new cases over the past seven days was 14.4% greater than the previous seven days, increasing in 43 of 67 counties. Cambria, Somerset, Blair, Clearfield, Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties saw increases, while Bedford and Indiana counties had fewer new cases over the past seven days.
There have been 137 cases and three deaths in Cambria County, 81 cases and one death in Somerset County, 92 cases and four deaths in Bedford County, 105 cases and one death in Blair County, 93 cases and no deaths in Clearfield County, 202 cases and four deaths in Fayette County, 156 cases and six deaths in Indiana County and 1,010 cases and 39 deaths in Westmoreland County.