A post-Thanksgiving surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations may be easing, but officials are bracing for another upswing after Christmas and New Year’s.
With 7,887 new cases and 57 additional deaths reported Monday, Pennsylvania has had 563,589 cases 13,981 deaths attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic struck the state in March, the Department of Health reported.
Cambria County topped 8,000 COVID-19 cases and 200 deaths with Monday’s update. There were 107 new cases and three additional deaths recorded Monday, bringing Cambria’s totals to 8,065 COVID-19 cases and 201 deaths.
It was the fifth consecutive day with fewer than 10,000 new cases statewide, continuing a decline in the seven-day moving average for new cases.
The seven-day average peaked at 10,579 cases a day on Wednesday and has decreased each day since then, reaching 9,118 on Monday.
Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have also been on the downslope since hitting 6,346 on Wednesday morning. By Sunday the state was down to 6,074 hospitalized, but Monday’s update added 16 patients to reach, 6,090 statewide. There were 1,217 patients in intensive care units and 738 on ventilators – down from 1,238 in ICUs and 740 on ventilators Wednesday.
Local hospitalizations were also down across Cambria, Somerset, Bedford and Blair counties, dropping from 288 on Wednesday to 279 on Monday. But there were more seriously ill patients, with 39 in local ICUs and 36 on ventilators – up from 25 in ICUs and 23 on ventilators Wednesday.
During a Monday press briefing, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the proportion of all COVID-19 tests that come back as positive for the virus has dropped statewide from 16.1% to 15.8% positivity.
“Right now, we are seeing, certainly, a plateau; maybe even a slight decrease in the numbers,” Levine said when asked about additional mitigation orders to prevent a post-Christmas surge.
“If everybody stands united and continues those (existing) mitigation measures and pretty much stays home during the holidays, things look more hopeful for January,” she said.
Hospitals are working together to prepare for a potential surge, Levine said.
Prisons still hotspots
Meanwhile, area prisons continue to battle coronavirus outbreaks.
With 230 inmates and 17 staff listed as “current cases,” the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto is third in the nation among Bureau of Prisons facilities, the bureau’s website reports. That’s down from last week, when the local prison led the nation. There have been 736 inmates and 41 staff who have tested positive since March, up by three inmates and 14 staff in a week.
At the State Correctional Institution at Somerset, there are now 587 active inmate COVID-19 cases, up from 463 inmates on Dec. 15. There have been 843 inmates who tested positive since March.
The other Somerset County state prison, SCI-Laurel Highlands, saw a decrease to 122 active inmate cases, down from 413 on Dec. 15.
The SCI-Somerset jump may have helped fuel the county’s numbers, with 116 new cases on Monday.
Elsewhere in the region, Bedford County had 29 new cases, Blair County had 98, Indiana County had 29, Clearfield County had 63, Center County had 44 and Westmoreland County had 361 new cases.
Blair County also had three new deaths and Indiana and Westmoreland counties each added one death.