State, County Report Spike In COVID Deaths, But Slow Case Growth

May 13, 2020

Both Allegheny County and the state of Pennsylvania reported a spike in deaths related to COVID-19 on Wednesday – and separately, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration pledged to track the disease’ impact on the state’s LGBT community.

In Allegheny County, 12 residents died – tying the highest one-day total logged in the county since the start of the pandemic. Daily death tolls had been in the single digits every day this month for Allegheny.

A county spokeswoman said there had been a slight lag in reporting a handful of the deaths. So far, at least 139 county residents have died from the disease.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health, meanwhile, reported 137 new deaths statewide, bringing Pennsylvania’s toll to 3,943 deaths. That’s a higher-than average toll, and the state noted that it reflected “deaths [that] have occurred over the past several weeks.”

Other metrics, meanwhile, offer signs the state is making headway against the disease. The state reported just 707 new cases of the disease Wednesday, continuing a trend of around 700 cases this workweek. Since April 1, the average day had seen nearly 1,300 cases.

And the percentage of tests that have come back positive has also declined (see chart). Previously, nearly one-in-five tests reported by the state each day had been coming back positive. That number is now closer to one-in-ten – a level many public-health experts say is needed to have confidence that testing is capturing the spread of the disease.

Allegheny County, for its part, reported 19 new COVID-19 tests diagnosed on Wednesday. Of those, 17 were from positive test results, and the county reported 587 test results overall – a positive rate of 3 percent. Two other cases were identified as “probable,” in which a test was not performed but there is strong evidence someone has contracted the disease. In all, 1,545 cases of the disease have been diagnosed since the pandemic began.

In a separate release, the Department of Health announced Wednesday that it would be working to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity data for those who contract the virus. The state said it would compile that data while conducting case histories for contact tracing on efforts to test for the virus.  It’s also asking state health information organizations to track that data for use in reporting case information to the state.

“It is a top priority to ensure that all people in Pennsylvania who are experience symptoms of COVID-19 have access to diagnostic testing,” the department said in a statement.

The state’s Secretary of Health, Rachel Levine, is set to hold a press conference this afternoon.