Pennsylvania Provides COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring Update for Sept. 18-24

Coronavirus COVID-19

HARRISBURG, PA — Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine released a weekly status update detailing the state’s mitigation efforts based on the COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard.

The update includes the following:

  • Level of community transmission as a basis for the recommendations for Pre-K to 12 schools to determine instructional models.
  • Data on cases among 5-18-year-olds.
  • Cases that reported visiting a business among potential locations where exposures may have occurred.
  • Updated travel recommendations.

The dashboard is designed to provide early warning signs of factors that affect the state’s mitigation efforts. The data available on the early warning monitoring dashboard includes week-over-week case differences, incidence rates, test percent-positivity, and rates of hospitalizations, ventilations and emergency room visits tied to COVID-19. This week’s update compares the period of September 18 – September 24 to the previous seven days, September 11 – September 17.

“Our percent positivity and incidence rate for the Commonwealth both decreased this week, a testament to all the work Pennsylvanians are doing to unite against this virus,” Gov. Wolf said. “We must continue our focus on taking actions to protect ourselves and others, such as wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, washing our hands and avoiding large gatherings. Together, Pennsylvanians can be united to work to prevent the spread of the virus.”

As of Thursday, September 24, the state has seen a seven-day case increase of 5,070; the previous seven-day increase was 5,551, indicating a 481-case decrease across the state over the past week.

The statewide percent-positivity went down to 3.2% from 3.7% last week. Counties with concerning percent-positivity include Centre (12.0%). Northumberland (8.3%), Juniata (6.8%), Indiana (5.9%), Lebanon (5.7%), Snyder (5.2%), York (5.2). Each of these counties bears watching as the state continues to monitor all available data.

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Community Transmission
As of Friday’s data, Centre and Northumberland counties were in the substantial level with known sources of outbreaks contributing to community transmission. The departments of Education and Health will speak with school district representatives in both counties to discuss the implications of this level of transmission.

For the week ending September 24, 18 counties were in the low level of transmission, 47 counties in the moderate level, with two with substantial transmission:

  • Low – Cameron, Clarion, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Fulton, Huntingdon, Jefferson, McKean, Montour, Pike, Potter, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Venango, Warren, Wyoming
  • Moderate – Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Bradford, Bucks, Butler, Cambria, Carbon, Chester, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Indiana, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset, Union, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland, York
  • Substantial – Centre, Northumberland

Cases Among 5-18-Year-Olds
The Department of Health is providing weekly data on the number of statewide cases of COVID-19 among 5 to 18-year-olds.

Throughout the pandemic, there have been 9,552 total cases of COVID-19 among 5 to 18-year-olds. Of that total, 624 occurred between September 18 – September 24. For the week of September 11 – September 17, there were 753 cases of COVID-19 among 5 to 18-year-olds.

Cases by demographic group is available on the DOH website.

Business Visits
The Department of Health is providing weekly data on the number of individuals who responded to case investigators that they spent time at business establishments (restaurants, bars, gym/fitness centers, salon/barbershops) and at mass gatherings 14 days prior to the onset of COVID-19 symptoms.

Of the 5,747 confirmed cases reported between September 13 and September 19, 42 percent (2.405) provided an answer to the question as to whether they spent time at a business establishment.

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Of those who did provide an answer, 14.5 percent, or 350, answered yes, they visited a business establishment 14 days prior to onset of symptoms:

  • 55 percent (194) of those who said yes reported going to a restaurant;
  • 23 percent (82) of those who said yes reported going to some other business establishment;
  • 12 percent (42) of those who said yes reported going to a bar;
  • 11 percent (39) of those who said yes reported going to a gym/fitness center; and
  • 4 percent (14) of those who said yes reported going to a salon/barbershop.

Of the 5,747 confirmed cases, 42 percent (2,417) answered the question as to whether they attended a mass gathering or other large event. Of the 42 percent, 11 percent (266) answered yes to whether they attended a mass gathering or other large event 14 days prior to onset of symptoms.

Compared to data reported on September 21, this week’s data saw an increase in people going to a restaurant (55 percent to 50 percent) and going to some other business (23 percent vs. 21 percent). Numbers went down for this week’s data for people who reported going to a salon or barbershop (4 percent vs. 8 percent), a gym/fitness center (11 percent vs. 15 percent) and going to a bar (12 percent vs. 13 percent). The number of those who attended a mass gathering or other large event went down slightly from close to 12 percent to 11 percent.

On July 13 contact tracers began asking more specific questions on the types of businesses visited and if individuals attended a mass gathering, defined as more than 250 people in attendance outdoors or more than 25 indoors.

The numbers above highlight business settings and mass gatherings as possible sites for transmission. With less than half of those asked about what types of businesses they visited or if they attended a mass gathering responding to the question, the department is reminding Pennsylvanians that it is essential that people answer the phone when case investigators call and to provide full and complete information to these clinical professionals.

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Travel Recommendations
Also today, the Department of Health updated its travel recommendations, originally announced on July 2, to add Kentucky, Texas and Utah and remove Louisiana from the list of states recommended for domestic travelers returning from to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania.

It is important that people understand that this recommendation is in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. A concerning number of recent cases have been linked to travel, and if people are going to travel, they need to take steps to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community, and that involves quarantining.

Gov. Wolf continues to prioritize the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians through the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvanians should continue to take actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, regardless of in what county they live. This includes wearing a mask or face covering anytime they are in public. COVID-19 has been shown to spread easily in the air and contagious carriers can be asymptomatic.

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