Cambria County has reported its first confirmed coronavirus test from an adult patient, who is in isolation at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.
The hospital provided the information Monday immediately after the state announced 165 new cases, bringing Pennsylvania's total to 644 COVID-9 patients in 34 counties. Another 6,595 tests have been negative, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced.
There have now been six deaths in the state: One each in Allegheny, Lackawanna, Monroe and Montgomery counties, and two in Northampton County.
Conemaugh spokeswoman Emily Korns said the hospital continues to work with the health department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure patient safety, as well as the safety of employees caring for the patient.
“Conemaugh Health System is committed to protecting the health and safety of everyone who walks through our doors,” the hospital said in a statement. “We can confirm that we have identified a patient who tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. This patient is currently in isolation at our hospital.”
In response to the news, Art Martynuska, Cambria County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, said residents must continue to take steps to prevent the community spread of coronavirus – including frequent washing of hands, avoiding touching of the face and the use of hand sanitizer.
“This is, unfortunately, the moment we all expected,” Martynuska said. “All of us have an important job right now – take the daily precautions to prevent the spread and stay calm, stay home and stay safe.”
Cambria County Commissioners Tom Chernisky, B.J. Smith and Scott Hunt said in a press release Monday afternoon that county residents should continue to practice social distancing and stay at least six feet apart from each other.
“Each person must take daily precautions," Chernisky said. "Make sure to wash your hands often and cover your sneezes and coughs.
“It is in our community’s heritage to overcome calamity and natural disasters. We will get through this. Cambria County is strong and will become stronger.”
Conemaugh's announcement was in response to “the volume of social media activity surrounding the first local case.” The hospital will not routinely update the media with details about the number of cases or positive tests within the health system, the statement said, noting the health department provides county totals in its daily report.
The health system has been preparing for a potential local outbreak for several weeks by beefing up its emergency operations plan that is in place all year.
“We want to reassure our communities that it is safe to come to the hospital, should you or your family need care,” the statement said. “We stand ready to serve you.”
Last week, Conemaugh further restricted visitation at all of its hospitals, with a zero-visitor policy at Memorial.
“We will continue to make exceptions for end-of-life and women and child services, and will allow one visitor with patients in the (emergency department),” the hospital announced. “Everyone who enters will continue to be screened.”
Hospital entry is restricted to the main entrance and the emergency entrance.
At Conemaugh Nason, Miners and Meyersdale medical centers, one visitor per patient is permitted, if the visitor is not ill or symptomatic. Entry is restricted to the main entrances and emergency entrances.
Everyone entering the buildings is screened with questions regarding respiratory symptoms and travel history based on CDC recommendations. That includes employees, providers, contractors and volunteers.
The visitation change is the latest in the health system's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other measures are listed on the system's website at Conemaugh.org/coronavirus.