Harrisburg, Pa. - Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said today that the state has no plans to bring any counties back to red or yellow in the phased reopening plan, but that they will continue to watch progress carefully.
If action is necessary for mitigation, Dr. Levine points to the precise and targeted mitigation of counties like Allegheny, which closed bars and took other actions to slow the spread.
Mitigation efforts for at risk populations like long-term care residents also continue to be monitored, said Dr. Levine. Recent increases in patient and staff positive numbers in the long-term care setting is a result of of universal testing, she said.
"The testing is helping to find asymptomatic individuals, which is the point," Dr. Levine said. When a facility can identify the asymptomatic residents and staff who test positive, it's possible to appropriately isolate those who could put others at risk.
A large portion of the state's long-term care homes have performed universal testing. The deadline for all facilities to comple testing is July 24.
Universal widespread population testing is not yet a viable option, said Dr. Levine, but she expects it will become an option. The state has reached a greater than 2% testing rate and look toward reaching a 4% or higher rate.
The state's COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard is designed to provide early warning signs of factors that affect the state’s mitigation efforts. The data available on the dashboard includes week-over-week case differences, incidence rates, test percent-positive rates, and rates of hospitalizations, ventilations, and emergency room visits tied to COVID-19.
“By looking at both statewide status and individual county status, we can take steps to stop increases before they become critical,” Gov. Wolf said. “One thing we know for certain is that we must continue to wear masks and practice social distancing. Risky behavior such as going out without a mask and congregating at a bar or in a crowded setting where social distancing isn’t being practiced are leading to spikes in cases and higher percent-positive rates.”
Dr. Levine pointed to a person's ability to make choices. "Avoid situations of possible exposure," she said. "If you feel uncomfortable with surroundings, make a choice--if people in a bar or restaurant are not properly distancing or wearing masks, leave."
While the statewide percent-positivity rate is at 4.4%, a number Dr. Levine says is managable, counties with concerning percent-positivity rates include Allegheny (7.9%), Beaver (6.3%), Butler (5.5%), Clarion (14.6%), Fayette (5.2%), Greene (5.4%), Lawrence (5.8%), Lebanon (5.6%), Philadelphia (5.1%), Washington (7.2%), Westmoreland (5.4%) and York (6.3%).
Each of these counties bears watching as the state continues to monitor all available data.
Officials consider 5-10% to be statewide levels that would raise overall concern.
Over the weekend, the Department of Health updated its travel recommendations and frequently asked questions, originally announced on July 2, to include Delaware, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma on the list of states recommended for domestic travelers returning from to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania.
Dr. Levine said companies should work with employees who have traveled to any of those 19 states to help make self-quarantine possible, either through a telecommuting option or changing leave policies.
Health officials across the board continue to point to public health recommendations: wear a mask, stay home if you're feeling ill, wash hands, stay extra vigilant to help protect the vulnerable. Remember that large congregate settings put everyone at risk, and quarantine if you believe you've been in contact with the virus, or have traveled to COVID-19 hot spots.