In a sign that a fall coronavirus surge health officials have been warning about is having a significant impact locally, nearly four dozen new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed within the 18015 zip code Thursday.
The 18015 zip code includes parts of Lower Saucon Township, Upper Saucon Township, Salisbury Township and the City of Bethlehem as well as all of Fountain Hill borough, and is home to approximately 33,000 people as well as St. Luke’s Hospital-Bethlehem.
As of Thursday there were 944 confirmed cases within the boundaries of the 18015 zip code.
A day earlier, the total case load in the 18015 zip code was 899.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard doesn’t include a tracking component for zip code-specific data, but until relatively recently the number of new cases being reported in the 18015 zip code was often in the single digits.
If cases continue to increase at the current rate–approximately 5 percent, day over day–the zip code will surpass the 1,000-case threshold sometime this weekend. That also appears likely due to the fact that as of Thursday, there were 53 probable cases in 18015.
When that happens, the zip code will join several others in the Lehigh Valley that have confirmed at least 1,000 cases since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, including:
- Allentown: 18102 (2134), 18103 (1473) and 18104 (1188)
- Easton: 18042 (1046)
The only other Bethlehem area zip code that has confirmed more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases to date is 18017, which includes parts of Bethlehem city, Hanover Township (Northampton County) and Freemansburg borough, and as of Thursday had 1,086 cases.
The state health department once again reported a record new number of cases Thursday, with 7,126 new positives confirmed during the previous 24-hour period.
Per state health officials there are currently 2,904 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, 628 of whom are patients in intensive care units.
Another coronavirus case was confirmed at Saucon Valley High School Tuesday, just days after students at the school returned after learning at home for 14 days. Their remote instruction was ordered after five cases were confirmed at the school in late October.
As of Wednesday eight cases had been confirmed at Saucon Valley High School since in-person schooling resumed in late August.
With many Pennsylvanians expected to travel during the holiday, or at least gather with family and friends to celebrate it, public health officials have expressed concern over the potential for the outbreak to worsen by early December.
Some holiday events, like Hellertown’s Light Up Night, which is traditionally held outside at Dimmick Park on Black Friday, will be held virtually this year due to COVID concerns.
Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf and health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine earlier this week announced new statewide COVID-19 mitigation requirements in an attempt to prevent that from happening. Most of the new or updated requirements–such as an expanded mask order that mandates their use in private homes when non-household members are present–can only be effective if there is voluntary compliance with them.
State officials have said they have no plans to return to a county-by-county shutdown, in which levels of openness are determined based on caseload data and classified according to a “red, yellow, green” color-coding system. They’ve also said that although state health and education officials recommend that schools educate students online or via a hybrid model rather than in-person in counties in which substantial community transmission of the virus is occurring, those decisions will be left to the discretion of local school boards.
Both Northampton and Lehigh counties currently have substantial community transmission of the virus occurring within them, according to the Department of Health.
For more information about the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, or to view the latest data on the Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, click here.