‘The fall resurgence is here’: Wolf, Levine stress vigilance as COVID-19 case counts spike

    Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine warns of a 'fall resurgence' of COVID-19 cases during a news conference on Monday, 10/19/20 (screen capture)

    With COVID-19 cases continuing to spike statewide, the Wolf administration has called on Pennsylvanians to “double down” in their efforts to contain the spread of an illness that’s claimed the lives of 8,500 people statewide this year.

    “The fall resurgence is here, and while we always have to take this virus seriously, now is really the time to double down and really keep the people around us safe,” Gov. Tom Wolf said a Monday afternoon news conference.

    Through midday Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health had confirmed 2,372 cases over the last two days, bringing the statewide total to 183,315. The state’s percentage of positive cases increased from 3.9 percent last week to 4.3 percent this week, the highest it’s been since August, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Monday.

    Through Oct. 15, officials said the state had seen “a seven-day case increase of 8,723 cases; the previous seven-day increase was 7,398 cases, indicating a 1,325-case increase across the state over the past week.”

    As they have for months now, Wolf and Levine stressed the importance of wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and hand-washing — acts that have all become fraught with political meaning, and more thoroughly embraced by some segments of the population than others.

    “We’ve seen what happens when people don’t wear masks. We’ve seen what happens when people don’t practice social distancing, people get sick,” Wolf said. “We need to be vigilant about this.”

    Health officials said Monday that they are now more closely monitoring 21 Pennsylvania counties where the infection rates bear watching. They are: Huntingdon (9.9 percent), Westmoreland (8.9 percent), Bradford (8.3 percent), Lackawanna (8.2 percent), Lebanon (8.2 percent), Perry (8.2 percent), Elk (7.9 percent), Susquehanna (7.1 percent), Bedford (6.8 percent), Berks (6.5 percent), Lawrence (6.4 percent), Luzerne (6.0 percent), Schuylkill (5.9 percent), Dauphin (5.7 percent), Armstrong (5.6 percent), Centre (5.6 percent), Tioga (5.5 percent), Carbon (5.1 percent), Indiana (5.1 percent), Montour (5.0 percent) and Blair counties (5.0 percent), PennLive reported.

    Levine urged Pennsylvanians to report their method of exposure so that state officials have a more complete data picture of the illness’ spread, noting that, between Oct. 4 and Oct. 10, two-thirds of those contacted by state or county health officials “didn’t answer questions of whether they frequented a business or attended a mass gathering. I can’t stress enough how important it is to provide us with that information.”

    Of the 33 percent who responded to those queries, 16.3 percent (424) said they had attended a mass gathering or other large event 14 days prior to onset of symptoms.

    “Each of us has a collective responsibility to protect our community against COVID-19. We need to wash up, mask up, and please download the COVID-19 app,” Levine said, referring to the state’s tracking app, which enables people to learn if they’ve been potentially exposed.

    John L. Micek
    A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press