Pennsylvania continues to blow past previous coronavirus case counts, as hospitalizations mount.
On Saturday, the commonwealth confirmed more than 4,000 new cases, followed by 2,909 on Sunday and 3,402 on Monday, bringing the total since March to 234,296.
There are 1,652 people currently being treated for COVID-19 in Pennsylvania hospitals, 500 more people than last week.
“We are at a critical point,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. “We all need to take steps to prevent the spread of this virus.”
During this peak, the number of deaths and hospitalizations has remained lower than during earlier spikes in cases, but Levine said the number of deaths has started to rise and often lags a few weeks behind case counts.
Hospitals have been able to keep up with demand created by new coronavirus cases, but some in the north central region of the state are “challenged,” she said. Pennsylvania’s contact tracers are also losing the battle against time, as fewer and fewer people who have had contact with someone who later tests positive are responding to public health surveys aimed at tracking where the virus is and stopping it.
In order to slow the spread, New Jersey just announced it would reimpose some restrictions on indoor dining, ordering bars and restaurants to close the indoor parts of their business at 10 p.m.
Pennsylvania is not currently considering further business restrictions, according to Levine, and is instead relying on existing rules around indoor capacity and the non-binding mask mandate. Restaurants in the commonwealth currently must self-certify that they plan to follow distancing, cleaning, and capacity rules in order to be allowed to bring indoor spaces up to 50% customer capacity. Alcohol sales must also stop at 11 p.m.
As cases and hospitalizations have taken off in spite of those mandates, Levine made appeals to empathy.
“The steps we take together will protect ourselves, our families and our communities,” she said, noting who is at risk with the rising tide of cases. Across Pennsylvania, 60 kids have been diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), a condition where multiple organ systems become inflamed in children who have tested positive for the coronavirus. The current rise in cases puts emergency responders and the elderly at particular risk, said Levine.
Health officials at the state and national level have also urged Americans to cancel family gatherings during the upcoming holiday season.
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