Pa. coronavirus update: 853 new cases; state worst in U.S. at death reporting; Lehigh Valley on cusp of 10k cases | Pa. COVID-19 county map (09/24/20)

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported on Thursday an increase of 853 coronavirus cases and 17 new coronavirus-related deaths.

Pennsylvania’s total case count is now at 153,397 cases. The state’s death toll sits at 8,079.

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Coronavirus in Pa.

Once again, Centre County and Philadelphia County lead the state in daily case increases. Centre County added 124 cases to its total, which is now at 2,202, and Philadelphia County reported 114 new cases, bringing its case count to 31,368.

The state’s seven-day rolling average is now at 782 cases per day, reporting on an average of 12,524 tests per day. The state’s week-long positivity rate is currently at 6.2%.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

The state reported 17 new deaths, currently the low mark for the week, but the seven-day death average actually jumped up one, now sitting at 24 deaths per day (one week ago, 10 deaths were reported, which was holding the average down. But now it’s outside of the seven-day range). July 3 was the last time the average was that high.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

Thanks to a new Spotlight PA and WHYY News investigation, it’s now clear that daily reported deaths may not have occurred in the previous day, or even in the previous month. Pennsylvania ranked dead-last in the United States in officially reporting deaths to federal health officials within three months of the occurrence. Only four states are returning death certificates within 13 weeks at less than 90%: West Virginia at 87.4%, Arizona is at 84.6%, Connecticut at 68.2% and Pennsylvania at a dismal 65.4%.

The issue stems largely from the state’s implementation of an electronic recording system that, until the coronavirus pandemic started, wasn’t mandatory to use. Because there was no mandate, a system of faxed paper and manual entry was the go-to process, bringing the reporting process to a slow grind, an issue that the last six months have exposed.

TRIBLive reporter Mike Palm recently posted a string of tweets pinpointing when some of the deaths occurred. Of yesterday’s 39 deaths, 32 actually occurred this month, with the balance coming in June through August.

Coronavirus in the Lehigh Valley

The Lehigh Valley reported 43 new cases of coronavirus, matching the total reported Wednesday. Lehigh County reported 21 new cases, and Northampton County reported 22.

Lehigh County now has a total case count of 5,551, while Northampton County’s count is at 4,443. The region’s total is now at 9,994. In all likelihood, the Lehigh Valley will cross the 10,000-case mark on Friday.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

Obviously, the Valley is made up of two separate counties, but combining Lehigh and Northampton’s populations, the 674,603 total falls behind only Philadelphia, Allegheny and Montgomery counties, and sits just ahead of Bucks and Delaware counties. Of those five counties, all but Bucks County have already reached the 10,000-case mark.

Lehigh County also reported one new death, bringing its death toll to 353. Northampton County’s sits at 305, giving the region a total death toll of 658.

Rite Aid announced that on Friday, the Whitehall Township location at 2108 MacArthur Road will be opening a no-charge, drive-through COVID-19 testing site.

Northampton County also continues to offer testing for people with symptoms of COVID-19, free to county residents who do not have health coverage. Participants should bring photo ID and their insurance card if they have one. Beginning Monday, Sept. 28, the hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday. The testing site is 3100 Emrick Blvd. in Bethlehem Township.

Here is how the Lehigh Valley’s neighboring Pennsylvania counties are faring with the coronavirus, from the state’s data:

  • Berks County has 6,963 total cases and 393 deaths, with 24 new cases and no new deaths reported in the last day.
  • Bucks County has 8,670 total cases and 607 deaths, with 44 new cases and no new deaths reported in the last day.
  • Carbon County has 458 total cases and 28 deaths, with three new cases and no deaths reported in the last day.
  • Monroe County has 1,785 total cases and 133 deaths, with five new case and one new death reported in the last day.
  • Montgomery County has 12,059 total cases and 878 deaths, with 31 new cases and no new deaths reported in the last day.
  • Schuylkill County has 1,094 total cases and 52 deaths, with 18 new cases and no new deaths reported in the last day.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

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Connor Lagore may be reached at clagore@njadvancemedia.com.

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