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Pa. updates public on contract tracing efforts; 631 new cases added

The Pennsylvania Department of Health today provided an update on contact tracing efforts as COVID-19 remains a threat in our communities. Contact tracing is the process of identifying, notifying, and monitoring anyone who came in close contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 while they were infectious.

“Across Pennsylvania, we have dedicated public health professionals who truly are the backbone of contact tracing, working alongside our regional partnerships, staff and volunteers,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. “As COVID-19 cases increase, we continue our efforts to support, strengthen and expand in order to conquer any potential surge in COVID-19 cases. Without case investigations the proven public health strategies, like contact tracing efforts and monitoring would not be possible. Contact tracing is critical to identify any instances of community spread and prevent larger outbreaks to keep Pennsylvania safe from COVID-19.”

The Department of Health continues to expand and build the infrastructure for long-term public health needs, especially those in the near future to tackle any COVID-19 surges in cases. This expansion includes volunteers, regional partnerships and hiring contact tracing staff.

Currently, Pennsylvanians share on average one to ten contacts. Our estimates show that the state needs about 625 contact tracers. However, this number could grow hundreds, even thousands, depending on the resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall.

Currently, the commonwealth has a total of 661 contact tracers.

According to figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania added 631 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday. The state has 103,396 cases of the virus since the first case was discovered in March. Wednesday’s numbers do not include the hotspot of the state, Philadelphia County, which did not report data today.

The state added 25 souls to the death toll putting the number at 7,038 deaths attributed to COVID-19

Dauphin County added 20 new cases and one death to their totals on Wednesday, while Schuylkill County added two new cases and one death and Northumberland County added one case. The current counts of cases in the three counties of the Citizen-Standard coverage area stands with Dauphin County at a total to 2,466 cases with 152 deaths, Schuylkill stands at 828 cases with 49 deaths, and Northumberland County is at 366 cases and 11 deaths.

With case numbers rising, state health officials say that mask wearing is needed to stem the rising numbers. Mask-wearing is required in all businesses and whenever leaving home. Consistent mask-wearing is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“As the state has put in place new mitigation efforts to offset recent case increases, we must renew our commitment to protecting against COVID-19 by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and following the requirements set forth in the orders for bars and restaurants, gatherings and telework,” Dr. Levine said. “Pennsylvania has been a model for the country on how to reopen effectively using a careful, measured approach. However, we know the virus has not gone away as we see cases rise, so we must work together to stop another surge.”

In nursing and personal care homes, there are 18,846 resident cases of COVID-19, and 3,675 cases among employees, for a total of 22,521 at 797 distinct facilities in 60 counties. Out of our total deaths, 4,829 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. Approximately 7,682 of our total cases are in health care workers.

As far as negative tests for each county, Dauphin is listed as having 23,443 negative tests while Schuylkill reported 10,489 negative tests and 5,403 in Northumberland County.

The counties affected and the number of confirmed cases, with the number of deaths in parentheses, are:

Adams-424 (15), Allegheny-6,670 (214), Armstrong-129 (6), Beaver-1,046 (82), Bedford-109 (4), Berks-4,889 (362), Blair-159 (1), Bradford-69 (3), Bucks-6,513 (573), Butler-513 (14), Cambria-182 (3), Cameron-5, Carbon-335 (28), Centre-299 (9), Chester-4,414 (337), Clarion-70 (2), Clearfield-105, Clinton-105 (5), Columbia-438 (35), Crawford-114 (1), Cumberland-1,058 (69), Dauphin-2,466 (152), Delaware-8,003 (675), Elk-38 (2), Erie-813 (13), Fayette-288 (4), Forest-7, Franklin-1,109 (46), Fulton-19 (1), Greene-91, Huntingdon-272 (4), Indiana-185 (6), Jefferson-48 (1), Juniata-120 (6), Lackawanna-1,823 (212), Lancaster-5,158 (393), Lawrence-257 (9), Lebanon-1,518 (52), Lehigh-4,600 (334), Luzerne-3,085 (183), Lycoming-279 (20), McKean-26 (1), Mercer-276 (9), Mifflin-82 (1), Monroe-1,534 (120), Montgomery-9,282 (839), Montour-86 (3), Northampton-3,669 (288), Northumberland-366 (11), Perry-98 (5), Philadelphia-24,093 (1,658), Pike-517 (21), Potter-20, Schuylkill-828 (49), Snyder-85 (2), Somerset-100 (1), Sullivan-10, Susquehanna-202 (26), Tioga-33 (2), Union-113 (2), Venango-53, Warren-14 (1), Washington-603 (10), Wayne-148 (8), Westmoreland-1,214 (41), Wyoming-53 (7), York-2.067 (76).

As of midnight July 22, there have been 968,081 negative tests for the coronavirus. The state also said that 75 percent of the confirmed cases have recovered. If a case has not been reported as a death, and it is more than 30 days past the date of their first positive test (or onset of symptoms) then an individual is considered recovered.

What is coronavirus?

According to the Pa. Department of Health, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common throughout the world. These viruses can live in animals and at times, evolve and infect people before spreading through human to human contact.

Human coronaviruses are spread just like the common cold or the flu either through the air through coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact like touching or shaking hands, or by touching an object or surface with the virus on it.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The symptoms can appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after a person is exposed to the illness. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to severe illness and death. As of July 21, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reports there have been 3,819,139 cases of the Coronavirus reported in the U.S. with 140,630 deaths.

What can you do?

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.

The Pa. Department of Health offers these guidelines as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Stay home as much as possible. Try to get groceries once per week instead of daily. Freedom of travel remains, but please refrain from non-essential travel. Essential travel includes things like commuting to an essential job, picking up supplies like groceries and medicine, and checking on family and pets in other households. Do not host or attend gatherings.