After Months Of COVID Surge, Positivity Rate Decreasing Across PA

Justin Heinze

PENNSYLVANIA — As Pennsylvania continues to battle the ongoing coronavirus surge heading into the holidays, things have taken a promising turn.

Statewide, several key coronavirus metrics tracked by the Pennsylvania Department of Health have begun to see slight declines, after weeks of growth that was sometimes expotential.

Notably, the percent positivity rate on all tests has evened out to 15.8 percent, according to the most recently available data, which covers the week of Dec. 11-17. That's a decrease from the previous week's rate of 16.1.

“A decrease in percent positivity this week shows that we must continue to stay the course as we prevent the spread of this virus,” Gov. Wolf said Monday. “As we approach a number of holidays, we need to put Pennsylvania on pause and continue to follow the time-limited mitigation efforts announced last week. We need all Pennsylvanians to follow these measures as part of their collective responsibility to protect one another and the health system.”

Percent positivity rate is often pointed to as one of the most reliable measures of the strength of the virus, as it's a metric that's able to take into account the increased number of tests being administered.

However, that percent positivity rate remains more than triple of what the CDC calls "concerning," which is 5 percent.

Cases also saw a slight drop over the past week, falling by more than 4,000 from last week to 57,098. Similarly, the incidence rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 580 to 445. Meanwhile, the percentage of emergency room visits due COVID-19 has also dipped slightly, down to 1.4 percent from last week's 1.5.

While these are doubtlessly encouraging signs to go along with the recent arrival of tens of thousands of doses of the new Pfizer vaccine at Pennsylvania hospitals, there remain significant concerns.

Two metrics which did not fall relate to the healthcare system, which officials have repeatedly noted is being overwhelmed. The average number of patients on ventilators increased from 634 to 711, while the average number of hospitalizations rose from 5,564 to 6,139.

While many hospitals still have many ventilators to spare, others are seeing overcrowded emergency rooms and a shortage of the necessary personnel to handle the increase in patients.

“While our case data shows some improvement, the continued strain COVID-19 is placing on the rate of hospitalizations and ventilator use serve as a reminder to us all of our role in protecting our health care system,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement Monday.

The state remains "on pause" with additional mitigation orders restricting businesses and other activities through Jan. 4.

This article originally appeared on the Montgomeryville-Lansdale Patch