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Allegheny County Officials 'Cautiously Optimistic' About Slowed Growth Of COVID-19 Cases

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the county health department, held a virtual briefing on coronavirus on April 8, 2020.

Thirty-five new cases of COVID-19 were reported for Allegheny County on Wednesday. The 5 percent increase in new cases is the smallest since the pandemic began. However, it’s too soon to say whether the county is actually flattening the curve, said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“I don’t know that we have enough data yet, or enough days of testing and enough testing to say we’re there,” he said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re seeing some positive results.”

He said it’s too early to relax work restrictions or social distancing measures.

Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, stressed the data are not fully representative; they only provide information for people who are tested, between 500 and 600 each day, and test positive. She said the county must remain vigilant in order to beat the virus.

“Even though we’re doing OK we’re preparing for a surge,” she said. “We want to emphasize that it’s too soon to let up.”

Bogen said there are plenty of hospital and intensive care unit beds in the region, and there are currently no concerns about availability.

At a joint briefing Wednesday, Bogen acknowledged the link between COVID-19 and race. She said officials know communities of color already have poorer health outcomes in the county and that they are working to incorporate demographic data into reports.

When asked about a reported case of COVID-19 at the Allegheny County Jail, Fitzgerald said the county had been proactive in releasing inmates. He added officials are closely watching that case and those at long-term care facilities. Allegheny County's Emergency Services Department is trying to identify quarantine sites, and the Department of Human Services is still working to find safe ways to help people experiencing homelessness to self-isolate. 

Fitzgerald also said officials are figuring out how to ensure the upcoming election can be conducted safely, and encouraged people to vote by mail. The Pennsylvania primary is June 2.