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Health Secretary Levine says Friday's slowdown of coronavirus cases not 'statistically significant'

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Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine said the slower rate of new coronavirus cases announced Friday is not “statistically significant.”

For the first time, the number of coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania did not exceed the increase from the day before in numbers released Friday — a jump of 531 cases to 2,218, compared to a leap of 560 on Thursday. However, 6 more deaths were reported to reach 22 statewide.

“We would need to see a consistent decline in new cases over time to show that maybe we have been able to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. So it’s really too early to tell or to make any conclusions from the data at this time,” she said.

She said the continued increase in cases is because more people have the virus, not because of more testing being made available.

“We’re doing quite well,” in regard to testing at state labs, she said. “We do have adequate supplies of the chemicals and reagents for testing. We have just gotten in a new shipment in terms of the swabs that are necessary for testing. So at this time, we have the materials to continue our testing protocols.”

Of the 2,218 cases, 241 people have been hospitalized, which is about 10 percent. That percentage has remained steady. A total of 76 have been in intensive care, and 44 have required ventilators.

All of the deaths in the state have been adults.

“For Pennsylvanians who are sick and staying home, it’s very important to remember to monitor your symptoms very closely. If you feel like you are getting worse, particularly if you are having very high fevers or you are having severe shortness of breath or trouble breathing, please call your doctor. If it’s a medical emergency, please call 911,” she said. 

The state is working working in terms of having adequate staffing for physicians, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, nurses and respiratory therapists.

“We don’t know when the surge is going to be. We’re tracking that. We have different modeling,” she said.

Models have come from the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington, and they all have slightly different techniques and slightly different dates for the surge, she said.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has it right, she said: “The virus determines the time table. We don’t determine the time table.”

Other key topics from Levine’s comments Friday include:

• Regarding where there might be a new major outbreak of cases in the state: “There are so many different issues which contribute to where we might see a hotspot, so to speak. Certainly the age of the population. Air quality is important. Also the density of the population. How many people live really, really closely to each other. That’s one of the factors which has contributed to the significant surge in New York City, which has one of the highest if not the highest population density in the country.”

• On travelers coming in from outside of the state, especially hard-hit New York: “We are monitoring travelers coming to Pennsylvania. There is no domestic travel ban. I have heard no discussions about closing borders or anything like that.”

• She said the virus would be present on the body of someone who passes away, and scientists are still learning how long that will be.

• She said Pennsylvanians should give blood and help with organizations such as Meals on Wheels and food banks.