17870 DOH Corona Update

Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine speaks during a press conference, announcing the eleventh presumptive positive case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Pennsylvania, inside PEMA headquarters on Tuesday, March 10, 2020.

Somerset County has two new COVID-19 cases, and Cambria and Bedford counties have one each reported in the Pennsylvania Department of Health's daily update.

Wednesday's report shows 888 new cases and 94 additional deaths across the state. That brings Pennsylvania's totals to 51,845 confirmed cases and 3,106 deaths.

Local county reports show 35 COVID-19 cases and one death in Cambria County, 32 cases and one death in Somerset County, 27 cases and one death in Bedford County and 25 cases with no deaths in Blair County.

Although no additional cases were added to Blair County's report, the state is listing the county's first positive test in a resident of a long-term care living facility, which includes both nursing homes and personal care homes.

Cambria County previously reported a nursing home case. Westmoreland County has reported 131 cases in long-term care home residents and 30 cases among employees. Twenty-six of Westmoreland's 29 deaths are associated with nursing homes, including two new deaths reported Wednesday.

Indiana County has 13 cases in nursing homes, with four deaths.

Across the state, there are 10,010 resident cases of COVID-19 and 1,372 cases among employees at the homes, for a total of 11,382 at 502 facilities in 44 counties.

Of the state's 3,106 total deaths, 2,108 have occurred in residents of nursing or personal care facilities.

'Part of the community'

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine on Wednesday was asked again if cases from nursing homes could be excluded from a county's incidence rate when considering areas to begin reopening. Currently, the state has set a threshold of fewer than 50 new cases for every 100,000 residents to be considered for reopening.

Levine again said the nursing home cases are part of the county's incidence.

“A majority of the deaths are in nursing homes because of the age of patients in nursing homes and the amount of medical conditions and comorbidities that those individuals have, but a majority of patients from most counties are not in the nursing homes,” she said during Wednesday's briefing. “But they are really part of the community.”

The workers are also part of the community, she said.

Levine previewed how the state will respond as businesses reopen and activities resume, with increased testing and contact tracing to map how the virus is transmitted.

Technology will be brought into play, including a voluntary tracking app for at-risk and symptomatic individuals, she said. 

'Easier ... to get tests' 

Sara Alert, by MITRE Health Innovations, “allows potentially exposed individuals to enter symptoms daily, providing public health departments real-time insights to monitor exposure and respond quickly for care coordination and follow-up,” the MITRE website says.

“Using the apps that would track people's whereabouts on cellphones would be voluntary,” Levine said. “We are having discussions about how we are going to make the app for Pennsylvania.”

Responding to a question about a leveling off of total testing numbers below the state's goal, Levine and Governor Tom Wolf said the rate may be good news.

“We limit the number of people who actually qualify to take the test because you have to have a medical professional send you to get the test, which means you must have some indication you may have the disease,” Wolf said. “As fewer people have this disease, there are going to be fewer tests.”

Levine said efforts continue to expand testing, especially in areas with widespread cases and areas where businesses reopen.

“We are trying to think of ways to make it even easier for people to get tests,” Levine said. “We are going to start to consider when and how we would do population-based testing, which is very different than the surveillance testing.”

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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