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COVID-19: Bucks still “red” but restless

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Businesses push to reopen but governor remains steadfast
 
Demonstrators last week pushed Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration to reopen businesses in Bucks County. With signs saying “Democracy, Not Dictatorship” and “Liberty is God Given, Not Manmade,” protesters crowded sidewalks in downtown Doylestown.
 
Despite their demands, the Wolf Administration made it clear that Bucks County will remain in the red zone, the most restrictive in a three-phase traffic signal matrix defining red, yellow and green levels of restrictions designed to mitigate and monitor the spread of COVID-19.
 
The red phase allows only life- sustaining businesses to operate, prohibits in-person operation of schools and child care facilities, limits restaurant service to takeout or delivery, prohibits indoor health, recreation and personal care services, and mandates stay-at-home orders.
 
The yellow phase relaxes some of the social and work restrictions but still mandates school and child care facility closures. The green phase essentially lifts restrictions to a “new normal” and cedes guidelines to the federal level with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
 
Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 24 moved from red to yellow on May 8. Another 13 counties were added to the yellow zone for a total of 37 on May 15, and 12 more counties will move to yellow on Friday, May 22. No county has yet moved to green.
 
Absent from the decision to allow transition to yellow are a cluster of counties in the southeast region of the state. Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware and Bucks counties carry the highest number of confirmed county cases in the state respectively.
 
Bucks as of May 19, had 4,573 cases and has had 426 deaths due to COVID-19. That is up from 4,116 cases a week ago, 3,445 case two weeks ago and 2,675 the week before that. Corresponding percentage increases in county cases have decreased from 50 to 11 percent this week, showing some promise that Bucks is flattening the curve.
 
Tempering the encouraging news, however, is that the immediate surrounding counties of Philadelphia, Northampton, Montgomery and Lehigh combine with Bucks to define 33,394 cases in the state. That total comprises half of all Pennsylvania cases, yet it comes from only four of the state’s 67 counties, which make up only three percent of the state by area. An additional 20,000 cases from a surrounding swath of counties arcing from Monroe to York easily defines the southeast region of the state as the COVID hot spot.
 
The death toll in Bucks county increased to 426 this week (data current through Tuesday, May 19). That is up from 364 last week and 283 the week before, corresponding to a 17 percent increase, down considerably from prior rates over the past three weeks.
 
Pennsylvania remains the sixth most affected COVID-19 state in confirmed case which total 67,311. Of those, 1,850 are hospitalized and 392 are on ventilatory life support. And 4,600 positive cases involved health care workers, according to Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. She added that 13,813 cases involved residents of the 557 long-term care facilities across the commonwealth and 4,624 people in the state have succumbed to the disease.
 
Levine stated that a “three pillar approach” to mitigating long-term care facility spread were defined by testing, education, and resource distribution.

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