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Pennsylvania Hasn't Issued Another Shutdown, But Tells People To Stay Home For Thanksgiving

Over the weekend, Pennsylvania reported 10,000 new cases of the coronavirus, continuing a surge of infections that shows no sign of slowing down.

This increase of confirmed cases isn’t the result of additional testing. The state’s test positivity rate grew by nearly 3 percent over the past week; and COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by another 600 people now exceeding 2,500. Of those hospitalized, 20 percent are in intensive care.

Citing these stark facts at a Monday news conference, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine urged people to only celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with members of their own households.

But she also said the state would not transition back to the “yellow” or “red” shutdown phases. In the spring, after the virus was first confirmed in Pennsylvania, the Wolf administration created a color-coded system to control which businesses were allowed to operate.

Instead, Levine said the best way to control the virus is for the public to comply with capacity limitations on gatherings or at restaurants, and for people to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands.

“This is not a political issue. This is not a partisan issue. This is an urgent public health issue,” she said.

When asked about certain mitigation mandates that some counties have reinstated, Levine said local communities can make their own decisions. 

“We're looking at things statewide in terms of containment, in terms of mitigation, and then, of course, the distribution of a vaccine,” she said. “Of course, it is useful if different counties communicate and collaborate in their areas -- and so, some may do that. Some may not.”

If Pennsylvania doesn’t slow the growth of its coronavirus numbers, then hospitals here could face the same fate of those in other parts of Midwest and Mountain West, where facilities are struggling to care for surges of COVID-19 patients.

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.