Dr. Rachel Levine

Dr. Rachel Levine

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania officials are monitoring hospitalization data as they determine whether to ratchet up mitigation efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Monday.

For now, the state has no plans to enact stricter mitigation measures, Levine said, leaving it to local officials to do so.

“We’ll look at all options,” Levine said. “We’re watching the health care capacity really carefully,” she said.

Levine said that Monday morning, there were 2,373 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. Of those, 510 patients were in intensive care and 258 were on ventilators.  The number of people hospitalized increased by about 650 in the prior seven days, she said.

By later Monday, the state's data dashboard showed that the number hospitalized had increased to 2,575.

In addition, the state announced that a total of 9,675 new cases of COVID-19 — 5,199 reported Sunday and 4,476 reported Monday.

Philadelphia officials on Monday announced that indoor dining is banned, and a variety of other entertainment and recreation-oriented businesses including — theaters, bowling alleys, museums, libraries, casinos and gyms — must close. Philadelphia also ordered that schools be conducted online. The city's new restrictions also bar fans at Philadelphia Eagles games.

Montgomery County in southeastern Pennsylvania, ordered schools to go online late last week.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced new restrictions in that state on Monday, as well. Under New Jersey’s new restrictions indoor gatherings are capped at no more than 10 people.

Pennsylvania has limited indoor gatherings to 20% of the facility’s occupancy since early October. Larger indoor facilities must cap attendance at 15% for facilities that hold between 2,001-10,000 people; and at 10% for facilities that hold more than 10,000 people.

Gov. Tom Wolf has been meeting with neighboring governors to discuss how to respond to the pandemic, Levine said, adding though that on Monday, those discussions had not translated into any plans state officials ready to announce.

The focus on potential mitigation comes as the state has seen record-breaking numbers of new cases and is getting increasingly close to matching or surpassing its peak of hospitalizations.

In late April and early May, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Pennsylvania peaked at around 3,000, said Nate Wardle, a Department of Health spokesman.

Every county in the state has what Levine described as concerning percent positivity rates — above 5% — except the following counties: Forest (1.8%); Cameron (2.1%); Union (3.2%), Wayne (3.7%) and Susquehanna (4.6%).

“The significant increase in cases and percent positivity across much of the state is cause for concern,” Wolf said.

Levine said that business owners worried about the state enacting new restrictions should focus on trying to help the state avoid the need for new restrictions by abiding by limits on the number of customers permitted inside their businesses and enforcing the state’s mask order.

“Businesses can work with us,” she said. 

By early November, nearly 8,300 restaurants—or approximately 32 percent of all restaurants—had self-certified that they would follow safety guidelines in order to operate at 50% capacity, according to the Department of Agriculture.

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for the New Castle News and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

 

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CNHI PA State Reporter

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for the New Castle News and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

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