Center County’s rate of new COVID-19 cases in the two weeks since the stay-at-home order was lifted is approx. half of what it was in the two weeks there before.
About 25 new cases per 100,000 were reported April 24 to May 7 in Center County, according to data provided by the state health department.
Governor Tom Wolf removed his stay-at-home order May 8 and also allowed retail businesses and childcare facilities to open at least partially as part of the “yellow phase” of his three-phase plan.
Two new cases were reported Friday, bringing the county’s total to 138 since March 20. At least 30 cases have been reported across three nursing or personal care facilities in Center County. Five deaths have been reported since April 16.
Governor Tom Wolf announced Friday that 17 counties could move into the “green phase”. He told reporters Friday afternoon that county officials requested that the county be kept in the yellow phase.
The transition from red to yellow was apparently done in a “safe place for our community,” said Matthew Ferrari, associate professor of biology at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State.
That doesn’t mean Center County is ready, Ferrari said.
“What we’ve seen throughout this (pan) demic is that changes in the epidemiology or changes in numbers that we can see, based on case reporting often, depend on decision points for about two weeks,” Ferrari said. “What we are really looking forward to is the next two weeks to say if we are still in decline.”
The metric is just one of several that Wolf’s administration uses to guide its decisions. Others include test features, contact tracking, and implementation of security measures in high-risk settings.
There are 66,258 cases of the new coronavirus in Pennsylvania as of Friday noon, an increase of 866 since noon Thursday. This is the 12th consecutive day that one-day increases have been below 1,000.
If public health guidelines are followed, it would be reasonable to expect Center County’s rate to continue to fall. But “humans are complicated animals,” and it’s possible that those trends are reversed, Ferrari said.
“Much of what we saw as this outbreak was on the rise was driven by the virus. We had to learn about the virus, how it spread and how fast it spread, ”Ferrari said Thursday. “Everything we see from now on will be a combination of the virus and human behavior, and that’s a really difficult thing to predict.”
Residents in long-term care homes account for about two-thirds of the state death toll of nearly 5,000. Another 115 deaths were reported Friday.
About 57% of COVID-19 patients have recovered according to DOH. The case is considered an improvement if no death was reported and is more than 30 days after the date of a positive test.
About 1,900 Center County residents have been tested as of Friday. About 7% have tested positive according to DOH.
Communicating the dangers of something that is not visible can be challenging, but Ferrari compared Center County’s situation to a leg injury for a runner.
“If you desperately want to run again, start feeling good and start running again, you just want to recreate it and you will end up not running anymore,” Ferrari said. “… that’s the situation, “We’re in right now. The population is getting healthier, but we have to do the annoying thing where we have to wait an extra couple of weeks … to make sure we’re really healthy enough.”
In Center County, here is the zip code breakdown (those without cases are not listed):
- 16823 (Bellefonte, Milesburg and Pleasant Gap): 39
16801 (State College): 31
16803 (State College): 21
16827 (Boalsburg): 9
- 16870 (Port Matilda): 8
16866, 16686, 16844, 16828, 16852, 16822: 1-4 cases each (specific numbers are not available)
According to the state’s dashboard at the hospital’s emergency room, 1,619 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized and receive coronavirus treatment.
Anyone who thinks they came in contact with someone who may have a coronavirus is advised to monitor their health and call their primary care provider if they develop symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath. Symptoms may occur for as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
Those who think they may be ill are encouraged to stay home except to get medical attention. Residents are also encouraged to call their health care provider before they visit. And those who venture outside are encouraged to wear masks.
“What we see is exactly what we hoped to see, and it’s fantastic. I think it’s a testimony that our community is acting in its own best interest, “Ferrari said. “… Many people are harmed by this both directly and indirectly. Seeing the trends we want as a result of our response is a positive one, and we have to maintain that mentality as we move to address the cultural and economic disruptions that we have had as a consequence of this. “