Wednesday marked the ninth day in a row that daily COVID-19 case counts reached more than 1,000 in Pennsylvania.
There were 1,276 additional cases on Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 175,922, and 27 additional deaths, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 8,411. There are currently 773 Pennsylvania patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19, which is double what it was one month ago.
Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine discussed the importance of tackling a second wave of the virus during the fall season at a press conference. She urged residents to wear masks, social distance and download COVID Alert PA, a new app that tracks COVID-19 cases. So far, more than 300,000 Pennsylvanians use the app.
Last week, the state’s new contact-tracing management system went live, which allows calls and contact tracing to occur out of one program.
“I want Pennsylvanians to know you have an important role to play in this effort. This pandemic of COVID-19 has certainly taught us we are all in this together, and we are all interconnected, and we must stand united in stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Levine said.
She said it’s difficult to predict what the future will bring, but that the state is prepared for a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the fall. Levine added that the state is more prepared to handle the pandemic than in the spring, because of increased testing and contact tracing, and access to more personal protective equipment than what was available in the spring.
The federal government will send Pennsylvania more than 3.8 million rapid COVID-19 tests, which show results in 15 minutes, between this month and the end of December. The distribution plan includes identifying vulnerable populations, and weekly distribution will be prioritized to counties deemed a substantial risk for COVID-19 and counties among the top tier of moderate risk.
The vulnerable populations identified include skilled nursing facilities, personal care homes, assisted living facilities, independent care facilities, drug and alcohol treatment providers, behavioral health treatment providers, correctional facilities, higher education, health care organizations, and schools and teachers in counties demonstrating substantial risk.
Officials also discussed its plan for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. The plan, which has been reviewed by an internal task force and external stakeholders, will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for approval this week.
Officials also discussed concerns about flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic coinciding this fall, and urged Pennsylvanians to get a flu vaccine.
“The department and our state partners are working diligently to monitor COVID, as well as the flu, and prevent a flu epidemic in Pennsylvania within a global pandemic,” said Deputy Secretary for Health Preparedness and Community Protection Ray Barishanksy.
“Remember, cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow and wear a mask, clean surfaces that are frequently touched … and contain the virus by staying home if you’re sick, wearing a mask and by social distancing.”
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