Pa. coronavirus updates: 849 new cases; Lehigh County hits 5K total cases; Penn State’s liability waiver raises questions | Pa. COVID-19 map (08/12/20)

With 849 new positives reported Wednesday, coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania now total 121,130.

Thirty-three more deaths bring the Pa. COVID-19 death toll to 7,385, according to the daily report from the state health department.

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Meanwhile, the Lehigh Valley is nearing 9,000 total cases of COVID-19, and Lehigh County itself broke 5,000 on Wednesday.

And, one day after the Big Ten suspended fall football, Spotlight PA reports that returning Penn State students may not want to sign a waiver that relieves the university of liability during the pandemic.

Your Pennsylvania coronavirus updates for Aug. 12, 2020.

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Coronavirus in Pa.

The 849 new cases reported Wednesday are Pennsylvania’s most in a week, and the third most in a single day this month.

Longer-range trends are fluctuating. The seven-day average of daily cases rose for more than a month starting in June, then dropped off over the first week of August.

As of Wednesday, the weekly average was 774 cases a day, down slightly from 785 a week ago.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

More COVID-19 tests are being conducted, and fewer are coming back positive. Pennsylvania reported 17,512 tests on Wednesday, the most in a day this month.

The state is averaging 15,483 tests a day over the last seven days, up from 14,378 a week ago. And the seven-day positivity rate – the percentage of positive tests to individuals tested – on Wednesday was 5%, down from 5.5% a week ago. The World Health Organization recommends a positivity rate of 5% or lower.

However, the rate of COVID-19 deaths is slowly rising. As of Wednesday, 20 Pennsylvanians a day on average died from the coronavirus over the last seven days, up from 12 a week ago. The weekly rate has stayed in the teens since mid-July.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

MORE: Tracking COVID-19 – Interactive charts on Pa. cases, hospitalizations, deaths and more

The state health department estimates that 78% of Pennsylvania’s coronavirus patients have recovered so far. But, continuing its warning from last month, the health department says that younger adults are contracting COVID-19 more frequently.

In Pennsylvania’s northeast region, which includes the Lehigh Valley, the 19-to-24 age group has accounted for 18% of cases in August, compared to 6% in April. The numbers are similar in the southeast, which includes Philadelphia, where that age group represents 17% of August cases and only 5% in April.

Adults 65 and older are still more likely to be hospitalized or die from the coronavirus, the state reports. Nursing-home residents account for less than 17% of Pennsylvania’s cases but almost 68% of deaths.

Coronavirus in the Lehigh Valley

The Lehigh Valley may only be a day or two away from 9,000 total coronavirus cases.

With 42 new cases and one death reported by the state on Wednesday, the Lehigh Valley now totals 8,978 cases and at least 631 deaths. That breaks down to:

5,022 total cases and 338 deaths in Lehigh County, with 30 new cases reported in the last day. The county averaged 19 new cases a day over the last week, up from 16 a week ago.3,956 total cases and 293 deaths in Northampton County, with 12 new cases and one death reported in the last day. The county averaged nine new cases a day over the last week, down from 12 a week ago.

The counties themselves report at least 635 COVID-19 deaths, but, in a statement this week, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure said the local rate of deaths is slowing.

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“It’s our belief,” he said, “that this is largely due to folks wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing, staying home when they can and getting tested if they begin to show symptoms. Right now, our best defense against this virus is testing and contact tracing.”

Individually, Lehigh and Northampton counties are ninth and 10th, respectively, in case counts and eighth and ninth in deaths among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. As a region, the Lehigh Valley is fourth in cases (comparable to Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County) and deaths.

Here is how bordering Pennsylvania counties compare:

Berks County has 5,470 total cases and 372 deaths, with 39 new cases and three deaths reported in the last day.Bucks County has 7,275 total cases and 582 deaths, with 44 new cases and no deaths reported in the last day.Carbon County has 377 total cases and 28 deaths, with five new cases and no deaths reported in the last day.Monroe County has 1,650 total cases and 124 deaths, with eight new cases and no deaths reported in the last day.Montgomery County has 10,219 total cases and 859 deaths, with 32 new cases and one death reported in the last day.Schuylkill County has 928 total cases and 51 deaths, with six new cases and no deaths reported in the last day.

(Can’t see the table? Click here.)

Penn State liability waiver raises questions

Some colleges and universities are asking returning students to sign waivers acknowledging the risk of returning to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But one at Penn State University, where half of all classes will have at least some in-person instruction, is raising eyebrows because it absolves the university of all liability, according to a Spotlight PA report on sister website Students and faculty have spoken out against the university’s plans.

Instead of signing the required waiver, Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who focuses on legal liability, told Spotlight PA that she recommends students reach out to the university and explain they want to enroll but hope to see a modified agreement. That may at least put them in a better position should a claim need to be filed later.

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