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9 Pa. counties bear watching for coronavirus cases; statewide, rate of positive tests drops again

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said Monday nine counties bear watching because they have a higher rate of coronavirus infections, including some in central Pennsylvania.

On the upside, the rate of positive cases continues to drop statewide. Across Pennsylvania, 3.4% of those tested for the coronavirus were positive, down from 4% the previous week. This week, fewer counties are marked as areas of concern by the Wolf administration.

“Our percent positivity decreased significantly this week, representing the fourth straight week that the percent positivity has decreased,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement Monday. “This is a testament that our actions are working, but we still have more work to do.”

The Wolf administration said in the counties that bear watching, at least 5% of those tested for COVID-19 were shown to be positive for the virus.

The nine counties identified as areas of concern are: Perry (9.1%), Huntingdon (7.8%), Northumberland (7.3%), Indiana (7.1%), Union (5.9%), Susquehanna (5.7%), York (5.5%), Beaver (5.3%), and Blair (5.0%).

The previous week, 15 counties were marked as places to watch. Dauphin, Berks and Franklin counties are among those that dropped off the list of counties that bear monitoring. The administration has provided weekly updates on counties that are areas of concern.

The governor and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine continue to stress the importance of wearing masks and social distancing to limit the spread of the virus. They have said it’s especially important to help ensure schools can offer at least some in-person classes. Some schools opened their doors today, while others will resume classes in the next couple of weeks.

Risks of transmission

The Wolf administration also updated guidance on the risk of transmission of the virus in counties statewide. State officials are asking school districts to use the risk assessment in guidance for opening and in responding to positive cases in their schools.

Statewide, 45 counties are considered at moderate risk of transmission of the virus, including all of central Pennsylvania, while 21 counties are considered to be at low risk. Only one county – Union – is considered a “substantial risk” of transmission.

Moderate risk: Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Butler, Cambria, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Clearfield, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Franklin, Huntingdon, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder, Susquehanna, Washington, Westmoreland and York.Low risk: Bedford, Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Jefferson, Juniata, McKean, Pike, Potter, Somerset, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango, Warren, Wayne andWyoming

Schools are taking different approaches to the new year. Some schools, such as Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, will begin the year with remote learning. Others are starting with in-person classes or a mix of face-to-face instruction on certain days and online education on others.

Travel guidance

The Wolf administration also announced Monday that Arizona is removed from the list of states where residents were asked to self-quarantine for up to 14 days upon returning to the Keystone State. No new states were added to the list.

Statewide, more than 129,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 7,500 deaths have been tied to COVID-19, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. More than two-thirds of the state’s coronavirus deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

The health department estimates 80 percent of those who have been infected have recovered. The department considers patients to have recovered when they are 30 days past the date of infection or the development of symptoms.

The number of new cases has dropped in August, after climbing steadily in late June and throughout July. The state hasn’t reported more than 1,000 new cases in a single day in a month.

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