Coronavirus bug

Centre and Westmoreland were the only counties in the region with double-digit increases in COVID-19 cases Monday as Pennsylvania added 1,103 new cases, the Department of Health reported.

An additional eight deaths across the state brought Pennsylvania’s totals to 183,315 cases and 8,500 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Monday’s report marks the 14th consecutive day with more than 1,000 new cases.

Centre County added 20 cases and now has 3,719 cases and 15 deaths. Westmoreland County added 65 cases and one death to reach 3,550 cases and 71 deaths.

Elsewhere in the region:

• Cambria County added three cases to reach 889 cases and seven deaths.

• Somerset County added six cases to reach 325 cases and three deaths.

• Bedford County added one case to reach 338 cases and six deaths.

• Blair County added eight cases to reach 1,034 cases and 23 deaths.

• Indiana County added nine cases to reach 954 cases and 14 deaths.

• Clearfield County added two cases to reach 393 cases and seven deaths.

The health department COVID-19 dashboard shows hospitalization rates are rising across the state. In Cambria County, there were an average of 16 patients a day being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals for the most-recent seven-day period covered. That was up from nine patients a day for the previous week.

There were 922 COVID-19 patients in Pennsylvania hospitals this week, up from 422 near the end of September, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Monday during a press briefing.

Hospital capacity is not an issue, she added, noting that there were as many as 3,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized during the height of the pandemic’s initial surge in April. 

“There are no hospitals in Pennsylvania that are under strain from COVID-19 patients,” Levine said. “We are in a much better position that we were in the spring in terms of hospital capacity; in terms of (personal protective equipment); in terms of ability to contain (the virus) through lab testing, contact tracing and targeted mitigation. So we face the fall resurgence with better tools than we had before, but it’s still a challenge.”

Gov. Tom Wolf called on the public to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by “doubling down” on prevention measures, including mask wearing and social distancing.

The measures not only protect family, friends and coworkers, but they can reduce community spread of the virus and protect vulnerable nursing home residents, said Dr. David Grabowski, Harvard Medical School professor of health care policy.

“The strongest predictor of whether or not we’ll see cases in (a particular setting) is community spread,” Grabowski said in a press release from a national association of long-term care homes.

“The No. 1 factor in keeping COVID out of our nursing homes so we can protect our vulnerable population is reducing the level of the virus in the surrounding community,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

“While the support we have received from Vongress, the administration and other public health agencies have helped our facilities fight this battle, we could still see another wave of COVID cases caused by the sheer volume of rising cases in communities across the U.S. given the asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of this virus.”

There have been 24,663 residents and 5,389 employees of long-term care facilities infected by the coronavirus, contributing to 30,052 deaths among residents of the nursing and personal care homes, the health department reported.

As of Monday, 1,025 facilities in 61 counties have reported COVID-19 cases among residents or staff.

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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