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Dec. 30—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Pennsylvania on Thursday added nearly 20,000 new cases of COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health, and surpassed the milestone of 2 million cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
Thursday's 19,436 new cases was another single-day record high for the state, eclipsing by nearly 2,000 new cases the one-day-old previous record of 17,520 new cases, set on Wednesday.
By comparison, Pennsylvania was averaging approximately 5,300 new cases per day one month ago.
While daily case totals in the state now are far surpassing the totals recorded at the height of the pandemic in late 2020, daily death tolls so far are not, which health officials say is evidence that waves of vaccinations in 2021 are paying off for Pennsylvanians.
Still, 135 people died of COVID-19 complications on Thursday, the Department of Health reported.
Five were Somerset County residents, giving the county 13 deaths attributed to the virus this week and 328 since the beginning of the pandemic. Westmoreland County added four deaths and now has a total of 1,119 attributed to the virus.
No other county in the region recorded more than two COVID-19 deaths on Thursday.
Clearfield and Bedford counties had two deaths each and now have totals of 259 and 226, respectively. Cambria County added one death and now has 616. Blair and Indiana counties' death tolls remained unchanged.
UPMC announced plans on Thursday to begin giving hospital patients the first-ever Food and Drug Administration-authorized antibody cocktails meant to prevent them from getting COVID-19 in the first place.
The hospital system received "very limited" supplies of Evushield — the first-ever monoclonal antibody approved for the prevention of COVID-19 prior to exposure.
The drug's manufacturer, AstraZeneca, designed the drug for people who are vulnerable or immunocompromised — among those at the highest risk from COVID-19, which is the target group to which UPMC will administer its limited doses, hospital officials have indicated.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in this region has remained steady overall over the past week. 149 people were receiving treatment on Thursday at hospitals in Blair, Bedford, Cambria and Somerset counties — down three from a day earlier.
With just over 5,000 people hospitalized statewide, Pennsylvania's 14-day average increased slightly on Thursday to 4,575 patients.