Coronavirus bug

 New COVID-19 cases continued to level out, with 7,962 new cases Tuesday bringing the seven-day moving average below 9,000 cases a day for the first time since Dec. 6.

The death toll, however, continued to surge, with 232 additional deaths, pushing the state total above 14,000 deaths. State totals on Tuesday reached 571,551 cases and 14,212 deaths associated with COVID-19.

Tuesday’s update by the Pennsylvania Department of Health reflects deaths reported on Monday. Some of the death reports have lagged over weekends. It is the 10th consecutive weekday in which more than 200 COVID-19 deaths were reported.

Cambria County added 10 deaths; Somerset County added four deaths; Westmoreland County added 14 deaths; Blair County added five deaths; Bedford, Indiana and Clearfield each added two deaths; and Centre County had one new death.

Westmoreland was the region’s only county with a triple-digit increase in COVID-19 cases, reporting 302 new cases on Tuesday.

Cambria had 66 new cases, Somerset had 70, Bedford had 23, Blair had 86, Indiana had 15, Clearfield had 60 and Centre County had 36 additional cases.

Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations inched higher on Tuesday to 6,151 hospitalized, an increase of 61 patients since Monday. There were 1,236 patients in intensive care units and 772 using ventilators, the health department reported.

Locally, there were 16 fewer COVID-19 patients in Cambria, Somerset, Blair and Bedford county hospitals. Tuesday’s report showed 272 hospitalized, with 39 in local ICUs and 36 on ventilators.

There were no Cambria County ICU beds available in Tuesday’s update, but Blair and Somerset counties each had eight open beds.

The state introduced a new online tool to help reach more people who had potential exposure to the virus. 

Those who test positive for the coronavirus will be asked to provide an email to connect to the online Connect & Protect form. Filling out the form saves time with interviewers questions and begin the case investigation. Contact tracers will also begin to reach out to the close contacts identified and successfully monitor those individuals to ensure they have supports in place if they later develop symptoms, said Lindsey Mauldin, who leads the health department’s contact tracing program. 

“Case investigation is essential to learn more about where an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 went and who they came in contact with while infectious,” Mauldin said. 

“The Connect & Protect form takes someone just a few minutes to fill out, saving time – our most precious resource. 

“It is critical that all those who test positive take the time to complete their case investigation whether over the phone or through the Connect & Protect form.”

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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