Even with one additional COVID-19 case in Cambria County announced Wednesday, incidence here remains among the lowest in the state.
Since its first case appeared on March 23, Cambria County has had 21 residents test positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease, the state Department of Health reports.
That's around 16 cases for every 100,000 people and well below the incidence level Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday for the first step in reopening the economy.
“The initial benchmark we are setting is for the population to have an average of less than 50 cases per 100,000 individuals over the course of 14 days in order to return to work,” Wolf said during an evening press briefing.
He stressed the phased reopening will be based on several data measures, along with other parameters. In addition to low case-counts, the reopening will consider local support to manage future outbreaks.
But Wolf specifically identified the north-central and northwest regions for the initial reopening phase, targeted for May 8. The reopening is being studied by the health department's existing regions, which places Cambria and Somerset counties in the southwest region, with Pittsburgh.
Bedford and Blair counties are in the south-central region with Harrisburg and hard-hit Lebanon, York and Cumberland counties.
The Department of Health's COVID-19 website shows that Cambria, Blair and Clearfield counties have fewer than 20 cases per 100,000 population, while Somerset and Bedford counties have between 20 and 47 cases.
In the southwest, Indiana and Fayette counties are between 47 and 68 cases, with Allegheny, Westmoreland and Butler counties coming in between 70 and 118 cases per 100,000 people. Beaver County is the highest in western Pennsylvania, in the range of 152-319 cases per 100,000.
Cambria's confirmed new case was among 1,156 positive cases of COVID-19 and 58 new deaths announced Wednesday by the health department.
The report brings the statewide total to 35,684 cases and 1,622 deaths. Cambria and Indiana counties each reported an additional case. Cambria's total is now 21 cases, with two deaths, and Indiana has 56 cases with four deaths.
The department is continuing to work to increase the types of cases that are being added to the death case counts, the press release said, noting that the 58 new deaths include both confirmed and probable COVID-19.
Area counties that remained unchanged include Somerset County, with 19 cases and no deaths; Bedford County, with 16 cases and one death; Blair County, with 14 cases and no deaths; and Clearfield County, with 11 cases and no deaths.
Westmoreland has nine new cases, to reach 300 total, with 20 deaths. Fayette County added one case, to reach 70 cases, with three deaths.
Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine outlined the strategy for monitoring COVID-19 as restrictions are lifted and for responding to future outbreaks. Led by the department's community health nurses and other workers, the department will expand testing and step up what is called “contact tracing” to track down others who may have been in contact with infected individuals.
“This work will be very important,” Levine said. “Because it will help us identify early if an outbreak starts to happen.
“Once we identify an outbreak, we can work to stop its spread by having people that are affected isolate and quarantine.”
She stressed that social distancing and mask-wearing will continue to be required or recommended, even as businesses reopen.