It’s certainly not the list most counties would want to top, but Lehigh and Northampton counties are currently ranked #1 and #2, respectively, among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties for the average number of new COVID cases they are reporting per 100,000 residents.
The data reported by COVID Act Now Monday indicates an average number of new cases in Lehigh County greater than 300 per day, per 100,000 residents. With nearly 370,000 residents, the total average of new cases per day in Lehigh County is now more than 1,100.
Lehigh County also has one of the highest positive test rates for COVID in Pennsylvania, with 36.1 percent of tests for the illness currently coming back positive; an indication that many cases are going undetected.
Northampton County is right behind Lehigh in terms of that particular data point, with a 36 percent positive test rate as of Monday. Meanwhile, some local testing sites have been overwhelmed due to increased demand for COVID testing in recent weeks.
Northampton County is similarly ranked just one spot behind its neighbor when it comes to new cases, with roughly 284 new cases per day per 100,000 residents. That equals an average of 866 new cases per day, total, based on Northampton County’s population of roughly 310,000.
Meanwhile, both counties have among the highest vaccination rates in Pennsylvania, with Lehigh County ranked sixth and Northampton ranked 12th for vaccination of residents. In Northampton County, as of Monday 71 percent of residents had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, while in Lehigh County that figure was 76 percent.
The omicron variant of COVID-19 appears to be more highly-transmissable among vaccinated individuals than other COVID variants, which is part of the reason there has been a surge in breakthrough cases, according to a Dec. 31 NPR story. Holiday travel and gatherings; vaccine hesitancy; and colder weather–which requires individuals to spend more time inside where germs can be more easily passed from one person to another–are other factors most scientists and public health experts believe are driving the latest surge.
According to the New York Times Coronavirus Map and Case Count section, the number of new cases of COVID has increased by 216 percent over the past two weeks in the U.S., with most states seeing large spikes in their case numbers during that period.
Deaths attributed to COVID-19 have increased by 17 percent during the same period, while hospitalizations have increased 83 percent.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health site.