At least two Hellertown residents have now died from COVID-19, Northampton County officials confirmed Friday.
In addition to the previously announced death of a Hellertown resident, a news release by county executive Lamont McClure that was shared on the county’s Facebook page highlighted a second resident’s death that occurred in neighboring Lehigh County.
The county reported that 23 residents of Northampton County have died in Lehigh County since the pandemic began.
According to the Northampton County coroner’s office, as of Friday 95 people had died from COVID-19 within the county, which was 38 more than was reported a week earlier. Friday’s total included 84 county residents as well as 11 individuals from other counties and states.
Many of the deaths within both Northampton and Lehigh counties have occurred in nursing homes, where elderly residents–some with weakened immune systems and/or underlying health conditions–are typically dying at a higher rate than younger people who are infected with COVID-19.
Particularly hard-hit in Northampton County has been Gracedale, the county-owned nursing home in Upper Nazareth Township, where more than 100 residents and employees have been infected by the coronavirus and nearly 20 residents have died.
“We are providing the following information to give our residents the maximum amount of information permitted by law and in keeping with sound epidemiological standards,” said McClure in Friday’s news release. “It is a sad and grim duty to report this data, but we continue to do so, so that our fellow residents have the information they need to make sound decisions. What the new sad total of 107 (deaths) tells us is that we are not yet done experiencing the devastation of Covid-19 in Northampton County.”
As of Friday, Lehigh County had confirmed 111 deaths caused by COVID-19, according to a post shared on its Facebook page. That number included 36 deaths that occurred during the previous week.
According to the county coroner, seven of those deaths occurred in two eastern Lehigh County municipalities that as of April 24 had no residents who had died from COVID-19.
Between April 24 and May 1, four residents of Fountain Hill borough and three residents of Salisbury Township lost their lives to the virus, the news release indicated.
The other death totals by municipality are as follows: Allentown, 30; Bethlehem (Lehigh County portion), 9; Heidelberg Township, 1; Lower Macungie Township, 1; South Whitehall Township, 23; Upper Macungie Township, 3; Upper Saucon Township, 1; Whitehall Township, 9.
As of Saturday, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Lehigh County had 2,896 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while Northampton County had 2,182 cases.
The state is using criteria for determining whether a death was caused by COVID-19 that sometimes means there is a disagreement between the totals at the county level, and that continues to be the case for both Lehigh and Northampton counties. As of Saturday, the state reported that 94 Northampton County residents and 83 Lehigh County residents had died from the virus.
The state’s death toll from the disease stood at 2,418 Saturday. The Department of Health announced that an additional 1,334 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed Friday, which brought the total number of confirmed cases as of 12 a.m. Saturday to 48,305.
About 80 percent of those cases are concentrated in the Lehigh Valley and eight other counties in the eastern part of the state that has been at the epicenter of the outbreak since it began.
On Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that 24 mainly rural counties in north central and northwestern Pennsylvania will begin to open May 8 under conditions laid out in a three-phase Plan for Reopening Pennsylvania. It is unclear when counties that have seen much higher rates of the disease will be able to move from a near-total shutdown–where they are at currently–to the secondary phase of reopening. However, the governor’s office and the health department have said the decisions about reopening counties will be data-driven and based on what is in the best interest of public health and safety.
The information that is shared by the counties on their respective Facebook pages is generally the maximum amount of detail one can expect to receive in a news release, since authorities are limited in what they can legally release to the public by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).