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Centre County center of local outbreak

For the first time Friday, an area county passed the 1,000 mark for COVID-19 cases to date: Centre, with 1,062.

None of the other five are even close: Cambria is next, with 515; followed by Blair, with 511; then Huntingdon, 392; Clearfield, 270; and Bedford, 199.

That seems largely to reflect the situation at Penn State University Park, which on Friday reported 260 positive tests for the week ending Thursday — with 417 of 1,888 people who were tested still awaiting results.

The Department of Health’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard recorded Centre’s “incidence rate” over the past seven days ending Wednesday at 255 cases per 100,000 residents.

That is 6.5 times higher than Pennsylvania’s as a whole, which is 39.1.

The test positivity rate is 9.2 percent for Centre, compared to 4.2 percent for the state as a whole.

The DoH considers 5 percent or higher as cause for serious concern.

Centre has 219 more cases over the past seven days than it had in the previous seven.

As recently as Aug. 28, Centre had only 442 cases, fewer than Cambria and only a handful more than Blair.

The next day, it reported 20, then two days later, 17 cases, then two days after that, 47 cases.

Then it reported 40, 37, 37, and four days later, 184 cases in a day.

That was followed by 55 and 137 cases Thursday and Friday respectively.

“The biggest increases have been predominantly college and university settings,” for people ages 19 to 24, said Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine during a webcast news conference Friday. “They impact those counties.”

Parties and other activities with people who are not always masked are part of it, Dr. Levine said, when a reporter asked whether individuals in that young adult group have been doing “what they’re not supposed to do.”

The Department of Health has been in touch with the colleges and universities, some of which have been holding classes fully online and some with a blend of in-person and on-line learning, Levine said.

“We want to work with young people and empower them to make the right decisions,” the secretary said.

The hospitalization and death rates for Centre haven’t gone up commensurate with the case rate, which probably reflects COVID’s far greater lethality for older and otherwise physically vulnerable people.

In the past seven days, Centre’s average daily number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has gone up by less than one person (0.9), while its percentage of emergency room visits for COVID-like illness over that same period is only 0.8 percent. The overall state total is 0.6 percent.

The county’s total COVID death count has also not increased, remaining at 11 since Aug. 15 — even as Blair’s has climbed by five to 13.

In addition to the problem with students, Pennsylvania is being “impacted” by outbreaks in other states, Levine said.

Several weeks ago, outbreaks impinging on Pennsylvania were coming from the South, Levine said then.

Now, they’re coming from the Midwest — especially the Dakotas, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana and Ohio, she said.

Blair County’s case number over the last seven days has gone down by 30, while its incidence rate is 18 — a little less than half the number for the state as a whole.

Its positivity rate for the last seven days is 1.7 percent, well below the level of concern.

Bedford County’s case count is up seven, its incidence rate is 31.1 and its positivity rate is 3.7 percent.

Cambria County’s incidence rate is 19 and its positivity rate is 1.5 percent.

Clearfield County’s case count is up 16, its incidence rate is 36.5 — just under the state’s — and its positivity rate is 4.9 percent, just shy of the major concern threshold.

Huntingdon County’s case count is down eight, its incidence rate is 24.4 and its positivity rate is 1.6 percent.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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