The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Allegheny County now stands at 18, triple the death count from just three days ago.
Johns Hopkins University infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja said it’s essential to look at the number of deaths in the context of the rate of growth of total cases and hospitalizations.
“It's important to remember that even if cases are stabilizing or hospitalizations are stabilizing, you'll still see deaths increase,” Adalja said. “Death will be the last one to decline because of the time frame, because you’re always looking back.”
According to a paper published this week in the journal Emerging Infectious Disease, data from China suggest that the time from initial symptom onset to death is just over two weeks.
“I think we are seeing an increase in the number of deaths of these patients who have been ill for a while and have now tragically passed away,” said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine on Friday afternoon.
In Allegheny County, the rate of increase in total cases has been steadily declining since the first cases were announced in mid-March. Since April 5, the rate of growth has been under 10 percent each day, while previously rates have ranged anywhere from 9 percent to 100 percent (when the case count jumped from one to two). Officials have said this is evidence that social distancing measures are working.
Meanwhile, the rate of increase of hospitalizations has ranged from 15 percent to 25 percent since mid-March. In the past week, it’s held steady at about 15 percent.
“I would really look at hospitalizations and cases, and hospitalizations more so than cases, and then deaths will come down as the number of cases comes down,” Adalja said.
Allegheny County has not provided data about how many people are hospitalized with COVID-19 at any given time.
Allegheny County did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest data.