Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine held a press conference earlier today on COVID-19. Levine reported a record number of cases in the state since the pandemic started. (Creative Commons)

Pennsylvania Health Department briefs media on COVID-19 spike, state hits new record of daily cases

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Pennsylvania’s Department of Health held a virtual press conference earlier on Thursday to address the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases throughout the state. Secretary of Health Rachel Levine and Michael Huff, director of contact tracing, discussed the latest updates before answering questions from the media.

Levine painted a grim picture. The state hit another new record of daily cases, reporting 5,488 new COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. That tops Wednesday’s previous record of 4,711 cases. Levine said Pennsylvania is seeing its highest case counts since the beginning of the pandemic.

She stressed the importance of Pennsylvanians coming together and doing their part to combat the spike. 

“It is more important than ever for Pennsylvanians to do their part, to answer the call, to literally answer the call with the Department of Health if they call for case investigation and contact tracing,” she said. “But also, more broadly, answer the part by wearing a mask, washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, social distancing, avoiding big gatherings, and even now, small gatherings.”

Levine said there were 2,080 new hospitalizations throughout the state on Thursday. Fifty-two of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties currently have a positivity rate of about 5 percent, 12 more counties than last week. 

Following these statistics, Levine discussed the importance of contact tracing. 

“You might save a life if you are honest about where you were and who you were with,” she said. “Even if you never get sick, you might save a life by following some simple instructions.”

Michael Huff echoed her thoughts, saying “case investigation, as well as contact tracing, are vital public health tools.” 

Huff said confidentiality is key throughout the contact tracing process. Individuals are not told the identity of the patient who may have exposed them. 

Huff also announced that 36 percent of the state’s population had been tested through October. That balances out to roughly 4.2 million tests, or between 50,000 and 55,000 test results per day.

As more people got tested and more positive test results emerged, Pennsylvania’s Department of Health created a COVID-19 prioritization list. Topping the list is residents of long term care facilities, followed by children under 18, people over 65, people with pre-existing conditions and first responders. 

Both Huff and Levine urged listeners to comply with Department of Health regulations and pick up the phone if called by contact tracers. 

“Even if you think you might not be affected or impacted by this virus, it is important to think about those who can get extremely sick and tragically pass away from this virus,” Levine said. 

Levine ended the conference by addressing the need to face this virus together. 

“We must stand united in the fight against COVID-19,” she said. “What this virus has certainly taught us, we are all interconnected. It is our collective responsibility to work toward the common good. As always, stay calm, stay alert and stay safe.”

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