The Valley saw another nine new COVID-19 cases on Thursday — including six in Union County — as the number of cases statewide surpassed 111,000.
The state announced 860 new cases — pushing the total to 111,078 since March — and another 14 deaths. Of Thursday's new cases, 132 are in Allegheny County and 127 in Philadelphia County.
Daily case counts have risen nearly 70 percent since the beginning of July, driven primarily by an increased spread in counties in the southern half of the state. The percentage of virus tests coming back positive has risen from a low of 3.3 percent in mid-June to over 6 percent now, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
There have now been 720 cases of the novel coronavirus in the Valley: 400 in Northumberland County, 135 in Union, 93 in Montour and 92 in Snyder. In addition to the six new cases on Union County today, there were two new cases in Northumberland and one in Montour.
There are 7,176 total deaths attributed to COVID-19, including 4,887 residents of long-term care facilities.
According to the state Department of Health, there have been 1,088,859 negative tests and state health officials estimate 75 percent of those testing positive have already recovered.
State data shows that 756 residents remain hospitalized due to complications of COVID-19 and 104 on are ventilators.
In nursing and personal care homes, there are 19,366 resident cases of COVID-19, and 3,918 cases among employees, for a total of 23,284 at 846 distinct facilities in 61 counties. Approximately 8,165 of the state's total cases are in health care workers.
There have been 84 confirmed cases of the virus reported from residents or of Valley nursing homes.
In Northumberland County long-term care facilities, 61 residents and 11 workers have been infected and eight deaths have been recorded in four facilities. Three workers and two residents at four Union County facilities have been infected and one worker and no residents have been infected in one Montour County facility. In Snyder County, four residents and two workers have been infected in one facility.
There have been no deaths reported from nursing homes in Snyder, Union or Montour counties.
A Republican state senator is asking the Wolf administration to issue guidelines that will allow spectators, especially parents, to attend fall school sporting events.
“It is my belief that the Commonwealth can safely permit spectators, parents and family members to attend fall athletic events if proper mitigation measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, wrote in a letter to Wolf on Thursday.
If people can shop in stores, go to indoor sports venues and attend outdoor car shows under state Department of Health guidance, then the department can develop similar guidelines to give schools the ability to allow spectators to safely watch athletic events, Martin wrote.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association on Wednesday released more guidance for fall school sports. It noted the state, at this time, is not allowing spectators at scholastic sporting events. If that changes, mitigation measures would likely include mask-wearing and sitting 6 feet apart, the PIAA said.
Another Pennsylvania college has changed its mind about bringing students back to campus.
Muhlenberg College in Allentown had been planning a full return to campus for the fall semester but said Thursday that “significant surges” of the virus nationwide and a rise in infection rates among college-age people forced a change in plans.
Now, only first-year students will be invited to live on campus, along with a limited number of upper-class students. All upper-class students — whether they’re living on or off-campus — will take courses remotely, and only a limited amount of in-person instruction will be offered to first-year students.
“The surge in cases in certain regions of our country has had an impact on our ability to open safely with a full population of students,” President Kathleen Harring said in a message to the campus community.
Lafayette College, Dickinson College and several state-owned universities have also made the decision to go remote this fall.