Pa. coronavirus recovery: Bring a COVID kit to vote says state Health Secretary

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaks at a coronavirus press briefing. (Office of Gov. Tom Wolf)

Pennsylvania health officials on Monday reported 2,060 new cases of the coronavirus, along with 1,909 on Sunday, raising the total number of cases to 211,996 since the start of the pandemic. No new fatalities were reported, but 1,267 people are currently hospitalized and “this number has been steadily climbing,” said Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine on Monday.

Cases continue to mount around the commonwealth and efforts to contain them are thwarted by poor participation in contact tracing, according to Levine.

Over the last week in Pennsylvania, there have been five days with more than 2,000 new cases reported per day. Forty of the commonwealth’s 67 counties have percent positivities rates above 5%, 10 more counties than last week. There are more people infected then there were during the initial spring peak, but fewer people require hospitalization or are on ventilators.

“Our health care systems are better prepared to address the virus than they were in the spring, but we all must do our part,” said Levine.

Contact tracing and quarantine, two key tools for slowing the spread of the coronavirus to new people, have lagged in the face of mounting numbers. Philadelphia officials recently cautioned that they are unable to keep up with the surge.

When contact tracers do reach out, Levine said, people are often resistant to answering questions about where they’ve been. For example, between October 18-24 only 24% of people asked whether they had gone to a business or large gathering in the previous two weeks answered the questions, she said.

“I cannot stress enough how critical this information is for us,” said Levine.

Voting during a pandemic

One day before Election Day, state health officials urged residents who plan to vote in person to add a “COVID kit” to their voting day plan. That kit should include a blue or black pen, mask, and hand sanitizer. Officials also asked residents to download the coronavirus contact-tracing app on their phones.

She stressed that voting, with the proper precautions, is safe.

In response to questions about what voters should do if they’ve been unexpectedly been asked to quarantine due to contact with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19, Levine told residents to call the Pennsylvania Department of State.

“If someone is in quarantine, there are ways that we have that they can vote,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State said people recently told to quarantine qualify to vote by emergency absentee ballot, as do people who had an unexpected illness or disability, or cause for a last-minute absence, that occured in the final week before Election Day. The form to apply to do so is here: https://www.votespa.com/Voting-in-PA/Pages/Mail-and-Absentee-Ballot.aspx#emergency%20absentee

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