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COVID-19: PA ranks fourth among affected states

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The United States, as of Tuesday, April 28, hit two grisly milestones with COVID-19. The nation crested over one million confirmed cases and continues to comprise a third of confirmed worldwide cases.

The 58,355 deaths across the nation – a quarter of the 217,168 deaths globally from COVID-19 – have at the same time topped in 12 weeks the death toll exacted from American troops over two decades of war in Vietnam.

Pennsylvania is the sixth most affected state in the nation with 44,366 confirmed cases and 2,195 deaths as of April 29. Of the 67 counties in the commonwealth, Bucks county trails only Philadelphia and Montgomery counties in mortality rate with 185 deaths and ranks fifth in confirmed cases with 2,733. Every county in the state now has confirmed COVID, ranging from one each in Cameron, Warren and Sullivan counties to 4,177 in Montgomery County and 11,885 in Philadelphia County.

Dr. David C. Damsker, director of the Bucks County Health Department spoke with the Bucks County Herald and characterized the transmission of COVID-19 across the county as primarily associated with health care venues, estimating that infections in hospitals and long-term care facilities comprised up to three quarters of infections across Bucks County.

Long-term care facilities comprised the larger portion of those infections, including both residents and facility staff workers. Damsker estimated that about three quarters of the approximately 80 nursing home facilities in the county have COVID-19 cases.

Damsker added that social distancing and other preventive measures such as masking have been especially effective in blunting the rise of new cases, which while still increasing have not yet overwhelmed the six community hospitals in the county.

According to the state Department of Health, which tabulates information on its website (health.pa.gov), 209,088 tests were conducted as of April 28. Each test represents a different

person tested, and 43,264 tests were positive, representing 21 percent of those tested. And 2,781 of those are hospitalized with 616 COVID patients on life support (602 on ventilators and 14 on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO).

Ventilator capacity in the state is good with 1,443 of the 5,199 available ventilators in use. Bucks County has 126 total ventilators, of which 65 are in use (28 for COVID-19 cases). Available medical/surgical bed capacity in the state is 47 percent or 7,427 beds, and 40 percent available intensive care unit beds at 1,473. In Bucks County, 357 medical/surgical beds are available and there are 42 available ICU beds.

A map of the state clearly shows the bulk of cases concentrated in the southeast corner of the state, reflecting proximity to the New York City metropolitan region. Case counts support that observation, with 27,335 positive cases in the southeast region, outpacing the next highest of 9,351 in the Northeast region by a factor of three. By contrast, the Northwest and Northcentral regions remain as yet least affected with 270 and 684 cases, respectively.

Hospitalization rates show a linear increase with age, although the largest bulk of positive cases is in the age range of 25 to 49 at 38 percent.

Data from the PA Department of Health show 555 cases among county long-term care residents and 102 cases among employees, the latter being the highest infection rate of long-term care workers in the state. Throughout the state, 452 long-term care facilities have been affected with 7,360 cases involving residents, 920 involving employees, and 1,089 deaths.

Damsker said that while personal protective equipment supplies for county health workers are “okay for the most part,” he added that “no-one has too much. Nobody is swimming in PPE.”


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