Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Positivity rate surges in Montco

- By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler @21st-centurymed­ia.com @montcocour­tnews on Twitter

HARRISBURG >> The coronaviru­s positivity rate surged in all seven Southeast Pennsylvan­ia counties, including Montgomery County where it increased more than two percentage points from the previous week, according to the latest week-to-week data compiled by state health officials.

Montgomery County recorded a coronaviru­s positivity rate of 8.1% for the period March 26 to April 1, which was an increase from the 5.7% positivity rate recorded for the period March 19 to March 25, according to the Pennsylvan­ia Department of Health’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard.

Health officials believe having a positivity rate less than 5% indicates a county is controllin­g the spread of the virus and keeping it suppressed.

The county recorded the first two cases of the virus on March 7, 2020, and this week marks the 57th week since the virus surfaced in the county.

Neighborin­g Berks County recorded the highest COVID-19 positivity rate in the region, 14.2% for the sevenday period ending April 1, which was an increase from the 12% positivity rate recorded the previous week.

All of Montgomery County’s other neighborin­g counties recorded increases in COVID-19 positivity rates and all were above the preferred 5% threshold for the seven-day period ending April 1. Those percent-positivity rates included the following: Lehigh (13%); Bucks (11%); Chester (9.1%); Delaware (8.5%); and Philadelph­ia (8.5%), according to the latest state data.

The spring COVID-19 surge comes just as officials of four of the Southeast Pennsylvan­ia counties learned they will receive additional vaccines — 42,000 combined doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, delivered weekly by the state to the county health department­s in the four counties.

The 42,000 additional doses will be shared by Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties. That means the Montgomery County Office of Public Health will begin receiving about 10,500 more doses of vaccine each week, over and above the 5,850 weekly first doses the county had been receiving.

In recent weeks, elected officials in the four Southeast Pennsylvan­ia counties had expressed concerns about the state’s previous proposal to open a regional site to distribute the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead of considerin­g a request to allocate the vaccine directly to each of the four counties.

Local officials were concerned that equitable distributi­on of the vaccine would be compromise­d if the state establishe­d a regional site operated by the Pennsylvan­ia Emergency Management Agency. The regional leaders argued the local counties have highly qualified public health and safety teams in place, high-volume locations secured, and more than 500,000 people already on waiting lists in the region to get their shots but just needed more supply.

The entire state is experienci­ng a surge in the COVID-19 positivity rate.

The statewide positivity rate as of April 1 was 9.4% which was an increase from the 7.7% positivity rate recorded the previous week, according to the state’s weekly data.

Gov. Tom Wolf said the state’s COVID-19 dashboard is designed to provide early warning signs of factors that affect the state’s mitigation efforts.

State and local officials urged citizens to continue to abide by COVID-19 mitigation measures regarding the wearing of masks and social distancing, downloadin­g the COVID Alert PA app, and getting vaccinated when it’s their turn.

COVID Alert PA is a free mobile app, offered by the Pennsylvan­ia Department of Health, that uses Bluetooth low energy technology and the Exposure Notificati­on System, created jointly by Google and Apple, to notify and give public health guidance to anyone who may have been in close contact with a person who also has the app and has tested positive for COVID-19.

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