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Allegheny County health department reports no increase in COVID-19 illness. That could change.

The Allegheny River and Pittsburgh skyline on Oct. 15, 2022.
Patrick Doyle
90.5 WESA
The Allegheny River and Pittsburgh skyline on Oct. 15, 2022.

Some parts of the U.S. have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases this summer. But — so far — Allegheny County has not.

Wastewater data analyzed by the county health department indicate that COVID-19 numbers are holding steady. Fluctuations of hospitalizations in the county are modest and don't indicate a rise in cases, according to LuAnn Brink, the chief epidemiologist for the Allegheny County Health Department.

It's difficult to know why Pittsburgh has yet to see an increase, said Brink, who noted, "We have typically been a couple weeks behind some of the bigger metros in the northeast."

On the other side of the state, Philadelphia is experiencing a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases.

"[It's] not a surge, nothing we need to panic about," Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, told WHYY last Wednesday.

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Allegheny Health Network's recent experience mirrors Allegheny County's numbers, as there has been no increase in its COVID-19-related admissions at the health system. AHN's chief quality and learning officer Dr. Brian Parker said the small number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in recent months usually stay for just two or three days.

There has been a modest increase in COVID-19 patients across UPMC's 40-hospital system, which stretches beyond Western Pennsylvania to Harrisburg, Western New York and Maryland.

"We're currently averaging between 40-60 patients, which is double what we had a month ago," said Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC's medical director for infection prevention and hospital epidemiology.

The total number of individuals hospitalized at UPMC facilities, said Synder, still hasn't reached the levels that were consistent throughout 2022. He also said this is just a fraction of what was seen during the winter peaks of 2020-21 and 2021-22, when the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients at UPMC exceeded 1,000.

There's also been a modest bump at some hospitals within Independence Health System. Though Butler Memorial and Clarion Hospital have not seen increases, Independence Health reports slight upticks at its hospitals in Frick, Latrobe and Greensburg.

"The degree of illness appears to be mild, and those small increases of individuals testing positive have not required ICU care," said Independence Health's chief medical officer Dr. Carol Fox.

Infectious disease experts anticipate that COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County will increase this fall, along with other respiratory viruses, including the flu and RSV. Much of this will be driven by kids returning to school and the holiday season when people gather indoors.

Therefore, it's important to be up-to-date with vaccinations as this protects an individual's health and the community as a whole, said Allegheny County's LuAnn Brink.

"You know, the preschoolers, as well as older adults, are more vulnerable to these viruses," she said. "We do hope that everyone is mindful and seeks preventative care for that."

The new COVID-19 boosters will likely be available in late September or early October. People are also encouraged to get the yearly flu shot and, if they qualify, the new RSV vaccine.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.