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Cambria reports COVID-19 death

State’s 14,559 cases almost certainly an undercount

On Tuesday, for the first time, the state Department of Health reported a coronavirus death in our six-county region — that of a Cambria County resident.

It came on a day when the department also reported 13 additional coronavirus cases here — one in Blair County, one in Huntingdon and 11 in Centre, which now has 55 cases, more than seven times as many as any other local county and almost twice as many as all of those other counties combined.

Statewide, the number of new cases increased by 7 percent, after two days of modest decreases , although Tuesday’s numbers reflect some cases from the weekend that didn’t make it into the record Monday, said state Health Secretary Rachel Levine on the department’s daily webcast.

There are now 14,559 cases statewide — although that is certainly an undercount, according to Dr. Levine.

Among cases not generally counted are “probable” ones — such as those of people who, for example, live with a coronavirus patient, then develop symptoms, so medical authorities can assume they are infected too, Levine said.

There is often no need to test such patients, whose symptoms may be mild and who may not need to go to the hospital, Levine said.

If they go to the hospital, based on more severe symptoms like spiking fever, breathing trouble and an inability to stay hydrated, they may or may not get tested, she said.

Only if they do get tested, and the tests are positive, do their cases become part of the department’s record.

There are also people who are infected, but who never develop symptoms — a group that may comprise as many as a quarter of all those who get the virus, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those people don’t become part of the DoH statistics — as at this point there is no testing of asymptomatic people, Levine has said.

“We know there’s an undercount,” Levine stated. “We assume the true rate is much higher than what we’re reporting.”

That undercount is OK, though, because the department’s main public health concern is to ensure that the numbers of people hospitalized — especially those needing intensive care and ventilators — don’t breach the capacity of the state’s health care systems, she said.

The state’s main strategy for preventing that has been mitigation, including school and non-essential business closures, a stay-home order and a masking recommendation, coupled with helping the health care system gear up with personal protective equipment, beds and ventilators.

The state expects eventually to buy a “platform” for antibody testing, which wouldn’t be used for diagnosis, but which could help determine who previously had the coronavirus, who would still need to be vaccinated, what percentage of people may be susceptible to another outbreak, what a followup surge may look like and the potential need for additional mitigation, according to department spokesman Nate Wardle.

The first such antibody test was approved last week by the Food and Drug Administration, Levine said.

Of confirmed cases statewide, a little more than 40 percent are between the ages of 25 and 49, according to the DoH.

A little less than 30 percent are between 50 and 64.

Almost 20 percent are 65 or older.

Most of those who’ve been hospitalized and most of those who’ve died have been 65 or older, according the DoH.

Illnesses like heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes increase the risk of death from COVID-19, Levine said.

While 7 percent of COVID-19 patients are between 19 and 24, the three age ranges for those who are younger than that all hover around 1 percent.

The DoH does not provide specific information related to deaths, other than the county of residence, Wardle indicated. Johnstown-based Conemaugh Health System spokeswoman Emily Korns said that as far as she knows, no COVID-19 patient under her system’s care has died.

“But our thoughts are with the family of this member of our community,” she wrote in an email about Tuesday’s reported death.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

New cases in Blair County: 1

Cumulative cases in Blair County: 6

New cases in contiguous counties: Bedford 0; Cambria 0, 1 death; Centre 11; Clearfield 0; Huntingdon 1

Cumulative cases in contiguous counties: Bedford 4; Cambria 7, 1 death; Centre 55; Clearfield 7; Huntingdon 5

Cumulative regional deaths: 1

New cases statewide: 1,579, up 7 percent

Cumulative cases statewide: 14,559, in all 67 counties

New deaths statewide: 78

Cumulative deaths statewide: 240

New negative tests statewide: 5,845

Cumulative negative tests statewide: 76,719

Samples taken at UPMC site in Altoona: Between 40 and 50 patients per day are being scheduled this week.

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