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COVID IN THE COUNTY: County on ‘Fourth Wave’ Track, Third in State in New Cases

Last updated on April 8, 2021

HARRISBURG APR 6 2021 – On the day that restrictions on indoor gatherings and restaurant occupancy were substantially eased, and bar service resumed, Monroe County ended up third in the state for new weekly coronavirus cases.

According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, new cases in Monroe County leapt 32.8% during the week ending Sunday, as 603 new cases were logged, a 149-case increase over the 454 new cases the previous seven days. That was almost twice the statewide increase of 18% during the same period.

Monroe County ranked eighth in the state in total new cases last week (for comparison, Monroe County ranks 21st in population in the state). Adjusted for population, the county had the third-highest total of new coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania per 100,000 residents.

The county was also third statewide in the percent of people testing positive during the week, indicating that there are many more cases in the county than are being reported. The positivity rate for the county was 16.5% this past week, compared to 12.9% the previous week. The state positivity rate remained below 10% last week.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health Early Warning Dashboard reflecting COVID data for the week ending April 1 as compared to the week ending March 25.

Rising numbers like these are what prompted a popular county restaurant to delay adoption of the eased occupancy limits that went into effect this week. “While restaurant capacity is scheduled to increase next week, (we) have elected to stay below 50% for a while,” said Stroudsburg’s Willowtree Inn in a Facebook post last week. “The restaurant has been blessed with a busy deck whenever the sun shines. It will be enough. Case counts are rising, and we are just not ready.”

According to the CDC, as of Tuesday morning, April 6, Pennsylvania has administered first doses of vaccine to 35.2% of its eligible population, and the state ranks 12th among all 50 states for first doses administered by the percentage of the population. The state department of health numbers show that 21,798 county residents have been partially vaccinated, which is 12.8% of the population. The 18,038 fully-vaccinated county residents amount to 10.59%.

“It’s kind of like a race between the potential for a surge and our ability to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can.” – Dr. Anthony Fauci

Nationwide, more than 62  million people in the United States are now fully vaccinated, with another 50+ million with at least one dose. Nevertheless, cases are rising again in various parts of the country, including here in the Northeast. Experts are divided over if the new rise amounts to a fourth surge of cases. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s chief medical adviser, predicts that the U.S. won’t see a fourth wave of the coronavirus as severe as the previous three, thanks to the uptick in vaccinations. “It’s kind of like a race between the potential for a surge and our ability to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can,” he said Friday. “And hopefully, if you want to make this a metaphorical race, the vaccine is going to win this one.”

According to the state health department, teachers and school staff for pre-K through 12 were vaccinated under a special initiative that concluded April 2 and that resulted in more than 112,500 vaccinations. PMSD did not respond to questions about the numbers of district staff vaccinated under this program. Vaccinations continue for child care workers who are also part of that special initiative.

The seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 residents in Monroe County has been heading up since late February and crossed over into the “critical” range in early March. Unabated, the trend appears to be a so-called “fourth wave” of infections in the County which could overtake the infection rates last seen in early December and mid-January.

The Wolf Administration, along with the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, recently announced the start of the special initiative to vaccinate workers in four targeted industries: grocery stores, law enforcement, firefighters and food and agriculture. As of March 31, workers in those four industries may schedule an appointment to be vaccinated. The estimated 250,000 Pennsylvanians in these targeted industries can schedule an appointment at any vaccination site and receive any of the available doses.

Pennsylvania continued its accelerated vaccination eligibility plan by opening eligibility to all Pennsylvanians in Phase 1B on April 5. All residents in Phase 1C will be eligible to start scheduling vaccination appointments on April 12. Starting April 19, all Pennsylvanians will be eligible to start scheduling vaccination appointments.

Those eligible for an appointment can access the provider map available here. People without internet access can contact the Health Hotline by calling 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).

 

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