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Fewer Virus Patients Aiding Pennsylvania Case Investigators

Gene J. Puskar
Kiva A. Fisher-Green, center, watches as nurse Ruth John, right, takes a sample from Walter Lewis for a COVID-19 test in the driveway of the Alma Illery Medical Center in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

A growing majority of people contracting the coronavirus in Pennsylvania are not answering basic questions that would help case investigators trace the source of the infections, Pennsylvania health officials said Monday.

The rising lack of cooperation with case investigators comes as Pennsylvania's positivity rate, number of infections and coronavirus-related hospitalizations are on the rise.

Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said in a news conference that 71% of people interviewed in the week of Oct. 11-17 did not completely answer questions as to whether they frequented a business or attended a mass gathering in the 14 days before their symptoms showed up.

“I cannot stress how critical this information is, and how important it is for people to participate fully in the case investigation process and the contact tracing process,” Levine said.

Of those that did respond, 55% reported going to a restaurant, 13% to a bar, 11% to a gym or fitness center, 7.5% to a salon or barber and 26% to some other type of other establishment, Levine said.

Still, the rate of those not cooperating is rising. It was 61% three weeks ago, health officials said.

Pennsylvania is reporting more than 195,000 confirmed or probable cases of coronavirus since the pandemic hit the state, and more than 8,600 deaths reported because of the virus, according to the state Department of Health.

The percentage of virus tests coming back positive over seven days has risen from about 7% in early October to 11% currently, according to the COVID Tracking Project. It hit a low of 3.3% in June after a spring spike, when testing was far lower.

The state has a seven-day average of 1,770 new cases per day over the past week, up from about 918 per day over the last seven days of September.

Meanwhile, the seven-day average of hospitalizations is about 931, up from about 460 at the beginning of October, according to state data. The seven-day average of deaths is about 27, up from just below 12 at the beginning of October, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

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