Visualizing the curve: Philly leads Pa. in new COVID cases

This article was updated on March 23, 2020, at 1:56 p.m.

Philadelphia confirmed 79 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, bringing the city’s total to 175. 

“That increase we’re seeing today is partly just due to the increasing number of tests we’re doing. But we have to assume most of that increase represents the increased spread of this virus in Philadelphia,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said at a briefing on Friday. “And we expect that increase to continue. We’re clearly in the rapid growth phase of this virus.” 

Those new figures bring Pennsylvania’s statewide total to 691, with two recorded deaths. But as the virus has spread across the state, it has not spread evenly. 

Confirmed cases are largely clustered in major population centers, but, until late last week, suburban Montgomery County recorded far more confirmed cases than Philadelphia. That’s despite the suburban county having about half the population of Philadelphia.

Outside of major cities along the eastern and western borders of the state, new cases were also detected in counties elsewhere with significant population centers. Centre County, home to State College, logged its first case on Friday. So did Erie, the largest city in Northwestern Pa.

In all, nearly 200 new COVID-19 cases were logged in the Keystone State over the past weekend, with the state’s most populous counties recording an average increase of about 40%.

Pennsylvania still has fewer cases than neighboring New Jersey –– which has seen 1,914 cases to date and 21 deaths –– despite being home to nearly four million more residents. There have been 68 cases in Delaware, home to less than a million residents.

It is still unclear if these differences are the result of more or less limited testing in the tri-state region. Officials in Philadelphia announced Friday that the city would ramp up detection efforts by opening a new drive-through testing site inside Citizens Bank Park.

It is still unclear if these differences are the result of more or less limited testing in the tri-state region. Officials in Philadelphia announced today that the city would ramp up detection efforts by opening a new drive-through testing site inside Citizens Bank Park.

To slow the spread of the virus, Gov. Tom Wolf has also ordered all but “life-sustaining” businesses to shutter.

“We are keenly aware of the economic impact of this pandemic,” said Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, on Thursday. “The human toll could be much, much worse.”

It’s still too early to say if even these unprecedented steps have come soon enough to blunt the impact of COVID-19, which has the potential to push hospital capacity to a breaking point.

Experts now say it will take months –– not weeks –– for the virus to run its course.

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