Pa. coronavirus update: On Election Day, cases hit single-day milestone

Voters practice social distance while lining up at polling place in Northern Liberties in Philadelphia on Election Day. (Miguel Martinez for WHYY)

Voters practice social distance while lining up at polling place in Northern Liberties in Philadelphia on Election Day. (Miguel Martinez for WHYY)

Updated: 3:24 p.m.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania saw its largest single-day increase in positive coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. As of midnight, the state recorded 2,875 new positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 214,871.

The milestone came as both President Donald Trump and Joe Biden campaigned across the hotly contested battleground state on Election Day. While Biden has proposed measures such as a national mask mandate to curb the spread of the virus, Trump has minimized the latest surge, suggesting that cases are only increasing because testing has gone up.

The way to tell if we are simply only catching more cases as a result of ramped-up testing is to look at the proportion of tests that come back positive. Over the past week in Pennsylvania, the positivity rate was 6% — an increase from over the summer, and higher than the rate the World Health Organization suggests is safe to reopen and operate businesses. Counties that are considered most successful at containing the virus have positivity rates below 5%.

Not only are cases surging in Pennsylvania and across the country, but recent research suggests that the president’s large, crowded rallies may, in fact, be responsible for much of the virus’ spread. A new study from Stanford University scientists found that Trump rallies were to blame for 30,000 new coronavirus cases nationwide.

According to a Monmouth University poll conducted last month, 52% of Pennsylvania voters trust Biden more to handle the coronavirus pandemic and 32% said they’re more confident in Trump on the issue. The president contracted the coronavirus last month and recovered.

Philadelphia announced 614 new cases of the virus Tuesday — that’s six times the average of roughly 100 new cases a day the city was logging during the late summer months and into early fall.

Fatality at prison in Chester

The Pennsylvania Board of Corrections announced the first death of a person incarcerated at SCI Chester. The 77-year-old was taken to a local hospital in October for issues other than COVID-19, and was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Oct. 25 while at the hospital. He died on Monday night.

As of Tuesday, the prison reported a total of 82 active COVID-19 cases, all of which are in isolation either at the prison’s infirmary or local hospitals.

Fifteen other incarcerated people have died of COVID-19 across the state.

Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, or is quarantining because of possible exposure can still cast an emergency absentee ballot by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

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