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Local COVID stats better

Improving numbers seen statewide

Both key metrics for all six local counties on the state’s Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard have improved for the most recent week, compared to the previous week — but all are still far above the thresholds of concern.

The same is true for the state as a whole — good news that will not, however, mean the administration is considering an early end to its indoor dining ban, scheduled to expire on the morning of Jan. 4, according to Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, speaking at a virtual news conference this week.

Blair County’s incidence rate — the number of new cases per 100,000 people — is at 459, 22% lower than the previous week’s number, but still nine times higher than the threshold of concern, which is 50.

Blair’s positivity rate is 15%, down four points from the previous week, but still three times higher than the threshold of concern, which is 5%.

The local county with the highest incidence rate is Huntingdon, at 518 — 8% lower than the previous week, but 10 times higher than the threshold of concern.

The local county with the highest positivity rate is also Huntingdon, at 22.2%, down 2 points from the previous week, but still 5 times higher than the threshold of concern.

Clearfield’s incidence rate is 435, down 22% from the previous week, while its positivity rate is 13.4%, down 2 points.

Cambria’s incidence rate is 372, down 29%, while its positivity rate is 14%, down 2 points.

Bedford’s incidence rate is 298, down 46%, while its positivity rate is 21%, down 4 points.

Centre’s incidence rate is 280, down 19%, while its positivity rate is 11.3%, down 3 points.

The incidence rate for Pennsylvania as a whole is 373, down 16%.

The state’s positivity rate is 15.1%, down a fraction of a point.

The dashboard weekly new-case comparisons with absolute numbers also reflect improvement, as Blair had 175 fewer new cases than for the previous week, while Cambria had 228 fewer cases, Bedford 147 fewer, Centre 126 fewer, Clearfield 102 fewer and Huntingdon 28 fewer.

Pennsylvania as a whole had 10,321 fewer cases than for the previous week.

In addition, four of the local counties had fewer COVID-19 hospital patients per day on average in the most recent week on the dashboard, compared to the previous week: Clearfield, nine fewer; Cambria, eight fewer; and Huntingdon and Bedford, one fewer each.

Blair’s average number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients remained the same, while Centre’s increased by four. For the state as a whole, average daily COVID-19 hospitalizations declined by 59.

The hospitalization trend contrasts with the trend on the previous week’s dashboard, which showed four of the local counties’ daily COVID-19 hospitalizations rising.

Another improvement is reflected in the Department of Health’s Reduction of Elective Procedures Dashboard, which records staffing adequacy, COVID-19 patient levels and availability of beds in hospitals in each of seven regions.

If two of the three measures within a region reach a trigger point — 33% of hospitals with staff shortages, a 50% increase in COVID-19 admissions in the past 48 hours and fewer than 10% of medical/surgical beds available — then all the region’s hospitals must reduce elective procedures by 50% for seven days.

Both the Keystone region, which includes Blair, Bedford, Centre and Huntingdon counties, and the Southwest region, which includes Cambria, have had staffing shortages at times, although neither ever had a second measure triggered at the same time.

None of the state’s regions currently have any measure at a level that is cause for concern.

While the state won’t lift the indoor dining ban early, despite the decline in cases, it isn’t ruling out the possibility of extending the ban if things get worse again, Levine indicated.

The administration will look at incidence rates and positivity rates, “the same type of data (it has tracked) throughout” the pandemic, before deciding, she said.

“We want to be sure the plateau — and even the decrease — continues into the new year,” Levine said.

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

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