Pennsylvania's hospital system is not challenged at the moment by a recent rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, and the Department of Health is not considering any new restrictions at the moment, Gov. Tom Wolf's top health official said Monday.
Dr. Rachel Levine, Wolf's health secretary, spoke after her department last week discussed imposing restrictions in some southwestern counties, while Allegheny County has taken its own action, including shutting down eating and drinking inside bars and restaurants, to contain the spread.
Pennsylvania confirmed 328 new positive cases of COVID-19, seven new deaths and one new case in the Valley during its mid-day update Monday.
Levine said, the department decided to hold off while it watches the day-to-day case counts.
Still, Levine warned that a cycle previously seen in Pennsylvania and other states is now repeating here: a growing proportion of people infected with the coronavirus are younger, between 19 to 49 years old, a step that preceded the virus getting into congregate care settings, like nursing homes.
To prevent that, Levine urged Pennsylvanians to wear a mask out in public, make choices to be safe and avoid certain activities, or adapt them, to help stop the spread. The Wolf administration has ordered people to wear masks in all businesses and in public places outdoors where social distancing is not possible.
"The hospital systems in Pennsylvania are not challenged," Levine told a news conference. "We want to keep it that way."
As part of that, the Department of Health is asking youth athletes to wear masks during competition, unless they are outdoors and can maintain 6 feet of distance between competitors on the field or court, Levine said.
While the state has seen an overall increase in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks, the rate of positive tests has gone down in the last few days, Levine said, citing the Department of Health's analysis.
However, the Department of Health said it also counts repeated negative tests on the same person as part of its rate. Counting those tests helps to reduce a positivity rate.
When calculating it based on the department's daily public disclosures of the number of people who are newly confirmed to be positive and the number of people who tested negative, the positivity rate has increased in recent weeks.
As testing becomes more widespread, an increase in the raw number of positive tests is to be expected. But if the virus is being brought under control, then the percentage of positive results relative to the total number of tests should be coming down.
One new case in Valley
One new case was reported in the Valley, in Union County, pushing the county's total to 100. Elsewhere in the Valley, 346 cases have been confirmed in Northumberland County residents, 79 in Montour residents and 72 in Snyder County residents.
The new cases pushed the state’s total to 95,742 and the state’s death toll to 6,911.
No new deaths were reported in the Valley.
On Sunday, the state took down its data center, including all death data, for maintenance. One new death in Northumberland County reported Sunday before the data was removed, was still included on the list today. That death pushed the Valley total to 15 — 9 in Northumberland County and two each in Montour, Snyder and Union counties.
In nursing and personal care homes, according to the state department of health, there are 18,279 resident cases of COVID-19, and 3,481 cases among employees, for a total of 21,760 at 750 distinct facilities in 55 counties. Out of the state’s total deaths, 4,699 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.
Approximately 7,158 of the state’s total cases are in health care workers.
In the Valley, one more worker at a Northumberland County long-term care facility has been diagnosed with the disease, pushing the total to nine. Fifty-five residents in county facilities have also tested positive. Three residents in a Snyder County facility and two workers and one resident in three Union county facilities have also tested positive. Four deaths have been linked to a Northumberland County facility.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state's confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.