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Coronavirus Cases Increasing, But Not Spiking In Allegheny County

Keith Srakocic
A cyclist wears a protective mask as she peddles past others walking through Allegheny County's North Park, Saturday, May 16, 2020.

Though cases of the coronavirus are increasing in Allegheny County, it’s far less severe here compared to what’s occurring at the state and national level.

“It’s not a surge like we saw over the summer,” said Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen at a Wednesday press conference.

The health department reports that during the first two weeks of September, there was an average of 68 new cases a day. For the first two weeks of October the daily average was 79 new cases. By contrast, last week Pennsylvania recorded 1,376 confirmed coronavirus infections — the highest number since April.

“The rise may be slow and not rapid in our community because people here are wearing their masks,” said Bogen, citing data collected from Facebook surveys by Carnegie Mellon University researches which found that 93% of county residents report wearing masks while in public either most or all of the time.

“But we don’t want to ignore this creep of cases upward,” said Bogen.

Case investigation data show that many county residents contract the virus while socializing with friends and family, when people are less likely to wear masks and stay physically distant. The pattern of transmission at small gatherings mimics what’s happening nationally.

"Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it's really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Tuesday. 

There had been concern that the start of the academic year would ignite a spike in cases, which so far has not occurred. 

There have been just 150 cases among students, and 60 cases among teachers, coaches and staff members across all private and public K-12 schools in Allegheny County, which contains 43 schools districts. 

“What we have not seen is an entire class test positive, or other indications that the virus is spreading broadly among students while they are at school,” said Bogen.

Case investigators have found transmission among members of sports teams and other extracurricular activities. But those cases often coincided with additional socializing such as at team meals, sleepovers or parties.