It’s still unclear if they represent the start of a trend, but COVID-19 case numbers are spiking statewide in Pennsylvania, with 1,742 new cases of the disease reported by the state on Saturday. That’s the most new cases the state has reported in a single day in six months, since 1,765 new cases were reported on April 10, and brings the statewide total number of cases to date to 171,050.
The increasing caseload is also evident in the number of new cases of the disease being reported by Northampton, Lehigh and a number of other counties.
Northampton County reported 75 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, Oct. 9, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. That was the most new cases reported by the county in a single day since April 27, when 122 new cases were confirmed.
According to Department of Health data, since the pandemic began there have been 4,649 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 308 deaths from the disease in Northampton County.
To date, approximately 59,000 county residents have tested negative for the disease out of a population of approximately 310,000.
The Department of Health COVID-19 interactive dashboard indicates that to date there have been 145 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 18055 (Hellertown) zip code, most of which is located in Northampton County. The adjacent 18015 (Bethlehem) zip code, which includes parts of Upper and Lower Saucon townships, is located in both Northampton and Lehigh counties. As of Saturday there wer 522 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 18015 zip code.
The 18034 (Center Valley) zip code in Lehigh County has had 80 confirmed cases to date.
In addition to rising case counts, the COVID-19 infection rate in Northampton County has climbed to 1.12, according to data from the monitoring site CovidActNow. That means on average, each person with COVID-19 is infecting 1.12 other people in the county.
According to CovidActNow, that rate puts the county in its “high” infection rate category, which means that the total number of active cases in “is growing at an unsustainable rate.”
Currently there are 21 counties in Pennsylvania with a high infection rate, positive test rate and/or high daily case count average, which according to CovidActNow puts them at risk of an outbreak. They are Northampton, Philadelphia, Delaware, Berks, Schuylkill, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Columbia, Lycoming, Snyder, Lebanon, Dauphin, York, Potter, Blair, Cambria, Indiana, Westmoreland, Butler, Lawrence and Erie.
The site lists six Pennsylvania counties as having an active or imminent outbreak due to one or more statistics that are considered to be at a “critical” level: Bradford, Montour, Northumberland, Union, Centre and Huntingdon.
Two counties with very small populations–Forest (7,200 residents) and Cameron (4,400 residents) counties–appear on the CovidActNow map of Pennsylvania shaded in green, which means they have a low risk level due to their COVID-19 containment.
The remainder and majority of the state’s 67 counties–including Lehigh County–are considered to have a moderate COVID-19 risk level at this time, although Lehigh County’s infection rate of 1.10 puts it on the cusp of being considered high-risk.
According to the Department of Health, Lehigh County reported 36 new cases Friday, and to date has had 5,856 confirmed cases and 358 deaths from COVID-19. Approximately 63,000 county residents have tested negative for the disease out of a population of approximately 370,000.
The state of Pennsylvania as a whole now has a COVID-19 average infection rate of 1.12, which according to CovidActNow puts it at risk of an outbreak.
In addition to the 1,742 new cases of COVID-19 the state Department of Health reported 36 new deaths from the disease on Saturday.
Overall, hospitalization rates for COVID-19 remain low, due to the fact that a majority of new cases are being confirmed in young people, who are less likely to suffer life-threatening complications from the disease than the eldery or individuals who are immuno-compromised.
The spike in case counts and other numbers, however, is no doubt concerning to state officials, in part because it comes at a time when the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf has moved to ease some restrictions on public gatherings.
On Friday, the number of people permitted to gather at indoor and outside venues–such as football stadiums–increased as a result of a change in how the maximum limits are calculated. Previously, the state capped attendance at all outdoor events at 250 people and attendance at indoor events at 25 people. Under the new guidelines, the caps are percentage-based according to the size of the venue, and whether it is inside or outside.
In Saturday’s news release about the new case numbers, Pennsylvania health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine urged residents to follow the safety procedures the state has mandated.
“We know that congregation, especially in college and university settings, yields increased case counts. The mitigation efforts in place now are essential to flattening the curve and saving lives,” Levine said.
“Wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and following the requirements set forth in the orders for bars and restaurants, gatherings, and telework will help keep our case counts low,” she added. “Make your phone part of the fight against COVID-19 today by downloading the COVID Alert PA exposure notification app. Together, as Pennsylvanians, all of our efforts are designed to support our communities to ensure that cases of COVID-19 remain low.”