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Allegheny County’s Positive COVID-19 Case Numbers ‘Truly Alarming’

Gene J. Puskar

Allegheny County reported 233 additional cases of the novel coronavirus Thursday.

This is a new all-time high for daily case totals. It’s more than double Wednesday's number, which at 110 cases had also been a record-breaking day.

The county said that, “While an increase in the number of cases was expected - this is larger than expected. The expectation is that the numbers will also significantly increase again tomorrow.”

On Twitter, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who lives in Allegheny County, called Thursday's figure "truly alarming." The county's percentage of positive tests and hospitalizations are also on the rise.

For two weeks, the county has seen an accelerating upswing of cases. For perspective, in the last seven days there were 782 new infections reported. During the entire month of May, there were just 622 cases.

Public health officials continue to advise the public to wear masks, wash hands and maintain physical distance from others.

“Please limit travel and errands to only those that are necessary. Please take the necessary steps to protect those around you,” said the county in a press release. “Your vigilance can allow us to keep our businesses open and continue to support the economy.”

The on-site consumption of alcohol at bars and restaurants was banned in Allegheny County this week, after case investigators found that many people recently infected with the virus had visited these venues.

The age range of these newest cases reported on Thursday range from 6 months to 99 years with the median age being 29. There are four new hospitalizations, but no new deaths. Hospitalizations and fatalities lag behind new cases, so it’s possible that these metrics will also dramatically increase by the end of July.

Unlike earlier in the pandemic, people getting infected with the virus are skewing younger. On Wednesday, the county said that coronavirus cases among 19-24 year olds have more than doubled since June 20. This age group accounts for one-third of the county’s recent cases.

Although younger adults are far less likely to experience adverse COVID-19 health outcomes, seven people who are in their 20s and 30s were recently hospitalized with the illness. Epidemiologists say the more the virus circulates in the community, the more likely it is to find its way to more vulnerable populations, such as senior citizens, people with pre-existing conditions and those who are immunocompromised.

Bars, restaurants and casinos will be closed in Allegheny County for one week. The order comes after officials reported 233 new cases and four new hospitalizations Thursday. In the last week, more than 700 new infections have been confirmed in the county. The order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Food establishments may still offer take-out and delivery.

Officials also recommended a voluntary stay-at-home protocol for residents of the county. While not part of the order, limiting travel to necessities and other mitigation measures is intended to further reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our county. The Isolation-Quarantine Basics document can be found on the county’s COVID-19 page.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. This story was updated at 6:10 p.m. to reflect the recent bar and restaurant shutdown order. 

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.