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Virus cases put Blair at ‘substantial’

County reports more than 1,000 total infections

Leaves are falling and COVID-19 cases are rising, so Harrisburg administration officials Monday urged vigilance to minimize the harm.

“We all knew there would be an (autumn) upsurge,” said Gov. Tom Wolf in a webcast news conference. “Now is really the time to double down on our efforts.”

The number of new cases statewide has exceeded 1,000 14 days in a row, noted state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

Masking, social distancing, avoiding large groups and washing hands is key to keeping damage low as possible, Wolf said.

“I don’t like it,” Wolf said. “It’s frustrating.” But everybody needs to cooperate, he said.

The situation is better than it was in the spring, when the pandemic began, Wolf and Levine said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are 841 and climbing, but “well below” the early peak of more than 3,000, Levine said.

There are also more effective treatments now, with drugs including Remdesivir and dexamethasone, she said.

Hospitals are better prepared, she said.

There’s a COVID-19 tracing app, which 323,000 people have downloaded, Wolf said.

And there’s a far more “robust” system of contact tracing and case investigation — although a distressing percentage of people are not answering case investigation calls, Levine said.

During the week ending Oct. 10, 67% of those called during investigations connected with their positive test results wouldn’t say whether they’d frequented a business or attended a mass gathering, Levine said.

That needs to improve, she stated.

“Case investigations and contact tracing are linchpins of our containment strategy,” she said.

Of those who responded, 50% had visited a restaurant, 14% a bar, 13% a gym and 8% a salon or barbershop, Levine said. Sixteen percent had attended a mass event.

Every region in the state, although not every county, has been “impacted” by the rising rates of infection, Levine said. Rural counties are seeing their share, she said.

There have been outbreaks in colleges, long-term care facilities and prisons, she said. There have been problems with restaurants and large gatherings and problems with small gatherings of families and friends — often when vigilance is lax and an infected person is asymptomatic, she said.

Locally, Blair County passed 1,000 total cases Saturday, the second local county to do so, after Centre, which passed that mark Sept. 11, reflecting the return of students to University Park.

Community transmission is “substantial” in Blair, Centre and Huntingdon and moderate in Bedford, Cambria and Clearfield counties, according to a Department of Health news release Monday.

Low community transmission means an incidence rate of less than 10 new infections per 100,000 people for the most recent seven days and a positivity rate of less than 5 percent for the most recent seven days.

Moderate community transmission means an incidence rate of at least 10 but less than 100 or positivity rate of at least 5 but less than 10%.

Substantial community transmission means an incidence rate of at least 100 or a positivity rate of at least 10%.

COVID-19 is on the rise all over the country, Levine said.

That includes rural states, including North and South Dakota, she said.

“We’re facing a fall resurgence with better tools,” Levine said. “But it’s still a challenge.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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