COVID-19 testing

A patient completes a COVID-19 test at Conemaugh Health System's drive-up East Hills site on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

The state COVID-19 case-total topped 70,000 on Thursday, with 625 new cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reports.

One new case in Blair County is the local area's only change.

As counties reopen, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has said testing capacity and contact tracing programs will be vital to halting local clusters and outbreaks before they become widespread.

Although Levine admits more testing will be necessary before full reopening is possible, she says the state has greatly expanded testing in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf noted the state's testing program checked about 50,000 individuals during the last week of April, and had expanded to about 80,000 by last week.

Wolf's figures include all testing – including multiple tests for the same individual, health department spokesman Nate Wardle said. The published data represent the number of individuals tested, not the number of tests.

Area cases steady

Local county totals have reached 57 cases and two deaths in Cambria County, 37 cases and no deaths in Somerset County, 38 cases and two deaths in Bedford County and 49 cases and one death in Blair County.

The state reported an additional 108 deaths on Thursday, and the daily update brings Pennsylvania's totals to 70,042 cases and 5,373 total deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Total cases include 68,104 who tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and 2,533 “probable” cases. Those include individuals who had positive antibody tests and symptoms or exposure to known COVID-19 patients, along with those who had known close exposure to COVID-19.

An estimated 64% of COVID-19 patients in Pennsylvania have recovered, the health department says. That's roughly 48,300 patients.

Local testing up

The state data show counties in this area have expanded testing above the statewide rate – at least when it comes to testing individuals for the first time.

On April 16, when county-specific testing data were first released, the state showed 141,470 people had been tested statewide. That had more than tripled to 427,846 by Thursday.

But Cambria County's testing has increased almost 10-fold in the same period, from 392 tested by April 16 to 3,659 through Thursday.

That's still less than 3% of the county's residents, but Levine said she expects testing to continue to increase with both Rite Aid and CVS pharmacies now offering tests at some locations. The state has begun testing residents and staff at all nursing and personal care homes, she noted this week.

In Somerset County, there were 266 people tested by April 16, and 1,725 through Thursday.

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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