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COVID-19: Bucks County mirrors state as cases spike

New COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania have risen to levels not seen since mid-May and have topped 1,000 for the first time since May 9.
At its peak, Pennsylvania saw 2,100 cases in a single day on April 8. Cases in the state have declined steadily since then to a low of 304 cases recorded on June 7. Since then, however, cases have progressively increased.
The chronology of rising cases correlates closely to the county-by-county reopening. While the red phase proved effective in decreasing daily cases throughout the state by over 85 percent, the data following the phased reopening suggests those gains are being eroded.
In late May, all 67 counties in the commonwealth were either yellow or red at the time of the lowest point of recorded cases. On May 29, a significant shift in phasing occurred, with eight mid-state counties moving from red to yellow and 18 counties being the first to move from yellow to green. All remaining red counties made the transition to yellow on June 5. By June 17 – less than two weeks later – a steady rise in cases was being recorded. Eight days later on June 25, available ICU beds in the state started a steady decline from 1,321 to 1,144.
On July 15, Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed into law new targeted mitigation efforts in response to the rise in cases, including prohibiting bar service in restaurants and new maximum occupancy rules for food service establishments of 25 percent of fire code maximum occupancy. Additionally, nightclubs are prohibited from operations.
Nothing in the new mitigation orders mentioned a roll-back of phase status, and all 67 counties in the state remain green.
The southeast quadrant of the state remains the hottest with COVID-19 cases and deaths. Bucks County has up to 6,467 total cases which includes about 8 percent suspected COVID cases and 92 percent confirmed, according to data from the Pennsylvania National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (PA-NEDSS). That figure defines over one percent of the county’s population as having been diagnosed with the viral disease.
Bucks County has seen a steady rise in cases since mid-June off new case lows of only nine or 10 per day. A dramatic spike to 81 cases was recorded on July 20. There have been only three deaths this month through the 20th which may reflect more effective medical therapies. But deaths remain a lagging variable in coronavirus hospitalizations. The most recent death attributed to COVID-19 was on July 15 after a week of zero fatalities.
Of the surrounding counties, including Berks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia, Bucks has shown the most marked rise in PA-NEDSS data plots, displaying a clear increase in the county since the beginning of the month. Surrounding counties have so far remained either relatively flat or inconsistent.
While Bucks appears to show the clearest trend of increased cases in the region, it trails Montgomery, Philadelphia and Delaware Counties in the total number of confirmed cases. Other counties that have been relatively untouched by COVID-19 are now seeing dramatic spikes as well.
Armstrong County, which has averaged less than a case a day since April, spiked in almost a single day to 17 on July 18. And Allegheny County, which comprises Pittsburgh, had an average of about a dozen cases a day until mid to late June when it climbed precipitously to hundreds a day, most recently spiking at 321 cases on a single day in mid-July.
At 6,574 COVID-19 diagnoses, Allegheny County has now surpassed Bucks County in that somber toll.

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