Allegheny County studies 594 new COVID instances inside 48 hours, warning {that a} lower is because of restricted availability of exams.

From PublicSource reporters | December 28, 2020

Allegheny County Health Department [ACHD] confirmed 594 new cases and four new deaths in the past 48 hours on Monday.

ACHD does not believe that this relatively low number of cases indicates a decrease in the transmission of the virus. Instead, the department attributes it to “limited availability of tests last week,” according to a press release on Monday.

The new cases from December 18-27 were from people between one month and 98 years of age, with an average age of 45 years.

Out of three people who died during the same period, two were in their 70s and one was in their 90s.

On Saturday, ACHD reported 1,209 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths in the past 48 hours, including the Christmas vacation.

Vaccination and Mitigation Efforts in PA

The partnership between the federal government, CVS, and Walgreens to vaccinate residents and employees of long-term care facilities has, according to Dr. Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine officially began in Pennsylvania and other states on Monday.

During that first week, CVS will be delivering vaccines to 120 qualified nursing homes across Pennsylvania, and Walgreens will deliver vaccines to six qualified nursing homes across the state. In the future, this partnership will also serve other facilities such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

To date, hospitals in Pennsylvania have vaccinated 72,762 health care workers with the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. As decided by the federal government, 58 hospitals in Pennsylvania will receive an additional 47,775 Pfizer vaccine doses and 26,100 Moderna doses this week.

“This vaccination process is going to take some time, and it particularly depends on how much vaccine we get from the federal government each week,” Levine said on a livestream Monday. “In the meantime, our mitigation efforts are more important than ever.”

Across Pennsylvania, 5,905 people will be hospitalized for COVID-19 as of 7:00 a.m. Monday, approximately 19% of whom are in intensive care units. In addition, 747 people use a ventilator.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 3,779 new COVID-19 cases and 76 new deaths on Monday, and 4,884 cases and 127 new deaths on Sunday.

To date, the Pennsylvania DOH has reported 613,804 cases and 15,086 deaths since the pandemic began.

Nursing and personal care home residents and employees account for approximately 9.9% of the state’s total caseload and approximately 56% of the state’s total deaths. Healthcare workers account for about 3% of the nationwide cases.

The nationwide percent positivity of COVID-19 tests from December 18-25 was 15.1%, according to Levine, a slight decrease of 0.7% from the previous week. In the same week, the state reported 46,777 new cases, more than 10,000 fewer than the new case number from the previous week. Individuals between the ages of five and 18 account for about 28% of these new cases.

Still, few who tested positive answer investigators’ questions about companies they visited. Only 4.6 percent gave an answer between December 13 and 19 – of this group of 2,952 respondents, 9.3% said they had visited a business such as a restaurant, salon or gym.

Contact tracers monitored 8,747 contacts from people who tested positive from December 13-19.

In addition, the daily case numbers have been lower recently than in December, data points that were certainly difficult to interpret. Similar to Allegheny County officials, Levine noted that due to the holidays and the weekend, Levine probably didn’t get many tests done over the past week. Still, there seems to be a slight calming in transmission of the virus in Pennsylvania, something Levine noted through to the latest round of mitigation orders as well as national and regional trends for the virus.

“We saw this plateau and a slight decline. These are very positive results,” said Levine. “But we are concerned that if people don’t stay on course, we might see a spike again in January.”

As of Tuesday, the federal government has distributed 127,755 doses of vaccine to 109 hospitals in Pennsylvania. As of Saturday, 66,350 of these vaccine doses had been administered.

DOH director of testing and contact tracing Michael Huff said during a press conference Tuesday that he expects tests to be more readily available in the future, with additional locations and more widely used rapid tests.

Huff also said the state is “working very closely” with a provider who creates an at-home test. “I would suggest that in the next two months you will likely see some of these kits in drug stores and other areas. And within the next three to six months they will likely be available immediately.” On December 17, the FDA issued emergency approval for the first home test kit.

When asked why there are fewer rapid tests available in Pennsylvania than some other states, Huff said the state uses PCR tests instead of rapid antigen tests because they are more accurate. “Most of the time, you are doing a rapid antigen test and you may need to do a PCR test, which will delay the results even more and create confusion.”

New national restrictions

On December 10, the governor announced new restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the suspension of indoor eating, after-school activities in schools, and indoor activities in casinos, theaters and similar venues. Retail is limited to 50% of indoor capacity.

The new restrictions came into effect on December 12th and will last until 8am on January 4th. When the new restrictions were announced, Wolf noted the rising death toll from the pandemic and concerns about hospital capacity.

“The problem we all face is that this virus continues to rage in Pennsylvania. In the past few weeks it has become clear that we need to take further mitigation measures to protect Pennsylvanians and stop the spread of COVID-19 “said Wolf during a press conference. “We all hoped it wouldn’t come to that. However, the current state of the increase in Pennsylvania does not keep us waiting.”

In announcing the new restrictions, Wolf recognized the severe financial impact of the pandemic on bars and restaurants, especially during the holiday season.

“It’s crushed for restaurants and bars,” said Wolf. “Unfortunately, [the coronavirus] thrives in places where people gather. “

The new restrictions limit face-to-face meetings to 10 people. Places of worship are expressly excluded from the order, but are requested to comply. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 people.

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