It was a fourth-straight week of increases for Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 case numbers, while it was a third-straight week of upticks in hospitalizations during the latest seven-day period recorded by the state Department of Health’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard.
For the seven-day period ending on Aug. 5, statewide cases rose by 2,819, or roughly 67 percent, over the prior week (it was 63 percent a week earlier), to a total of 7,051. During that same time frame, the seven-day average of virus hospitalizations rose to 556.4, from 418.9, a week-over-week increase of roughly 33 percent (it was 45 percent a week earlier).
Still, to provide some contextual reference, hospitalizations are still lower than they were last summer before virus cases began surging in the fall, and seven-day increases in cases during late July 2020 were 5,000 or more, while the overall seven-day case totals were well in excess of 10,000.
That all suggests that while the state is seeing another period of higher virus transmission throughout the commonwealth in large part because of the more-contagious Delta variant of the virus, the impact, thus far, continues to be relatively muted, likely due to the significant number of people who have been vaccinated, as well as those who have some amount of natural immunity because they have recovered from having the virus.
Though the percentage of those who have recovered from the virus did drop from 97 percent for the first time in over a month, that percentage is now 96 percent of the 1,233,876 confirmed and probable cases reported since the start of the outbreak. “Recovered” is defined by the state health officials as a case that has not been reported as a death, and it is more than 30 days past the date of their first positive test or onset of symptoms.
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Health care providers have identified the overwhelming majority of the new cases as continuing to occur in unvaccinated individuals, which keeps much of the public health focus on getting as many people as possible vaccinated.
Though there’s been a slight rise in weekly vaccination totals, according to the state Health Department’s website, those totals remain far lower than where they were in late winter and early spring, and there’s still more than 35 percent of the state’s adult population that haven’t been fully vaccinated.
Pennsylvania has managed to get at least one vaccine dose into 66.6 percent 65.7 percent of the entire population (up from 65.7, which is another slight week-over-week improvement compared to prior weeks) and 79.4 percent (up from 78.5 percent a week ago, also a bit of a week-over-week improvement) of the adult population (18 and older) as of Aug. 8. The issue remains getting people completely vaccinated, as 63.8 percent of the population (up from 63.2 percent last week, which isn’t a week-over-week improvement compared to the prior week). However, nearly 100 percent of Pennsylvania’s 65-and-older population – considered to be one of the age groups most at-risk for serious sickness from COVID-19 – have received one vaccine dose, with 84.4 percent (up from 84 percent last week) fully vaccinated.
All the available vaccines have shown a very high percentage of preventing both virus infection and serious medical conditions caused by virus infection (including infection by the latest virus variants), even with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) findings regarding the potential for vaccinated people to spread the virus to unvaccinated individuals.
The spreading virus in Pennsylvania has seen an uptick in cases in all but 8 of the state’s 67 counties (last week 14 counties reported no increase week-over-week or a week-over-week decline in cases). The largest increases continue to be in the state’s most populated counties, though less-populated counties are beginning to account for more of the weekly total.
All the available vaccines have shown a very high percentage of preventing both virus infection and serious medical conditions caused by virus infection (including infection by the latest virus variants)…
The top 10 counties for the seven-day period ending on Aug. 5 were Philadelphia (+302), Allegheny (+271), Lancaster (+171), Northampton (+146), Montgomery (+143), Bucks (+132), Lehigh (+124), Luzerne (+101) and York (+100) counties. The new additions to that top-ten list compared to a week ago are Lehigh and Chester counties (with Delaware County, reporting a weekly increase of 92 cases, dropping out to the 11th spot, and Dauphin County dropping to 15th with a rise of 66 cases). The top ten counties account for about 53 percent of the week-over-week rise in cases (last week the top 10 represented more than 63 percent).
As cases increase, so does Pennsylvania’s virus test percent positivity (those testing positive divided by the number of people tested), with it being 5.4 percent for the seven-day period ending on Aug. 5, up from the 3.9 percent level reported a week earlier, pushing the statewide positivity above the five-percent threshold and signifying more widespread transmission of the virus.
Thirty-five counties, up from 14 last week, had positivity of five percent or more, though most of the counties with the highest levels of test percent positivity are counties with far smaller populations, which makes them subject to more volatile fluctuations in positivity even with lower levels of virus case changes.
Data reported by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine illustrates that Pennsylvania is not unlike most states, as it sees cases rise along with percent positivity, though the latest data on the Johns Hopkins website, as of Aug. 8, suggests Pennsylvania’s positivity trend line has flattened during the past few days.
Still, with the increases during the seven-day period ending on Aug. 5, hospitalizations – which lag a week to two weeks behind case increases – are rising.
As earlier noted, the seven-day virus hospitalization average for the period ending on Aug. 5 showed an increase of 137.5, and the 14-day average is likewise indicating an upturn in the hospitalization curve, with that average at 512.9 as of Sunday, Aug. 8, up from 387.8 a week earlier.
The daily hospitalization figure as of Sunday was up to 692, compared to 471 a week earlier, while those needing care in an intensive care unit (ICU) bed totaled 167, up from 104 a week ago, 83 two weeks ago and 50 three weeks ago. Those needing ventilator assistance has likewise risen, with that total as of Sunday being 77, up from 54 a week ago, 37 two weeks ago and 29 three weeks ago.
COVID-19 deaths tend to lag further behind case and hospitalizations increases, but it appears that time may have come as there was a week-over-week increase in virus-related deaths following several weeks of week-over-week declines: the total since the start of the outbreak rose to 27,902 as of Aug. 8, up 47 from the 27,855 reported on Aug. 1. The prior week’s week-over-week increase was 28, while it was 35 two weeks ago and 43 three weeks ago.
All of the state’s virus data are illustrated on the Health Department’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard, updated every Friday, and its main virus data web page, though the state’s vaccination data are pulled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States webpage.
This piece is shared with permission from Capitolwire.com. Chris Comisac is their Bureau Chief.