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State’s COVID-19 positives top 8K

All six local counties, along with Pa., exceed threshold of concern

Pennsylvania set a record Thursday for new COVID-19 cases, then broke it Friday, topping 8,000 for the first time, quadrupling the state’s high point for the spring.

The statistics are alarming, but hardly evoke the reality of the illness, according to Harold Chambers, 83, of Altoona, a pastor who called the Mirror to discuss his recent COVID-19 experience.

“I want people to understand,” Chambers said. “It just about took my breath.”

He became infected on a visit to Mount Union, learning after coming back to Altoona that the son of his father’s old friend had the coronavirus.

After Chambers began feeling sick, it took three COVID-19 tests before he turned positive.

He went by ambulance to UPMC Altoona twice and was going to be sent to Mount Nittany Medical Center a couple of times for lack of room here — although that ultimately didn’t happen, he said.

“Thank God for what they did,” he said of UPMC. “(But) their hands are full.”

There were times “when they can’t get to you,” he said. “When you’re lonely there.”

He ended up asking to go home, and the doctors consented.

He got therapy at home.

“I feel pretty stable now,” he said. “I’m doing fine.”

He was born in North Carolina and came to Mount Union at age 11.

His stepfather worked in the Harbison Walker brick factory, back when Mount Union was known as “Little Chicago” and there were dirt streets and gangs, he said.

“I want UPMC to know I appreciate everything,” Chambers said. “I know the hospital is trying.”

Blair and its contiguous counties collectively set a record of 670 new cases Nov. 20, the same day Blair and Cambria set individual records of 233 and 214 cases, respectively.

As of Friday, all six local counties, along with the state as a whole, exceeded the thresholds of concern for two key indicators on the state Department of Health’s Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard — incidence rates over 50 new cases per 100,000 people for the previous week and positivity rates over 5%.

All the incidence rates are at least six times the threshold level, with Cambria County’s 667 the most egregious.

All of the positivity rates are at least twice the threshold level, except for Centre County’s, which is 5.8%, with Bedford’s the most egregious at 22%.

All of the incidence rates and all but two positivity rates — except for Centre’s — were higher than they were two weeks ago.

Among the local counties, Blair was most egregious in its differential between last week and the previous one for number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, at plus-55.

The statistics:

* Blair: incidence rate for the past week, 587; positivity rate, 14.2%.

* Bedford: incidence rate, 429; positivity rate, 22.3%.

* Cambria: 667; 17.4%.

* Centre: 377; 5.8%.

* Clearfield: 372; 11.9%.

* Huntingdon: 329; 16.3%.

* Pennsylvania: 323; 11.7%.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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