‘Headed in a favorable direction’: COVID cases still dropping in Allegheny County

by PublicSource

PublicSource has been tracking COVID-19’s spread on a daily basis since March 2020. More than a year later, in an effort to direct our resources into enterprise reporting on the pandemic and other important issues, we will cover the Allegheny County Health Department’s weekly briefing on Wednesdays and update the numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We may adjust as the prevalence of the coronavirus ebbs and flows. If you have questions or comments, please email PublicSource’s managing editor halle@publicsource.org.

Allegheny County has seen a significant drop in COVID cases, with 2,638 infections reported the week of Feb. 6-13. 

“After peaking at over 3,000 cases a day in early January, we are now averaging fewer than 450 new cases a day,” said County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen at today’s briefing. “And yesterday, we had our first sub-three hundred per day for the first time since early November.” 

Today, Bogen said the county reported less than 200 cases. 

She noted that the positivity rate has fallen to around 15%, which is a 20% decline from the peak. Hospitalizations continue to decline, which she said is a good sign for healthcare workers. 

January, however, was the county’s third deadliest month in the pandemic, with 284 deaths reported. Only December 2020 and January 2021 had more deaths. 

“I hope and anticipate that February will have fewer deaths given our declining hospitalizations,” Bogen said. “But it’s too early to know for sure what the February numbers will be, as deaths lag other indicators.” 

Bogen said that for the past two years, she has reported cases and positivity rates as metrics of the risk for COVID in the county. However, going forward, Bogen said those metrics are increasingly becoming unreliable to assess community risk, in part because at-home testing means the health department lacks complete data.

“We at the health department will increasingly rely on different metrics to monitor community risk,” Bogen said. 

These include hospitalizations, reports of outbreaks, wastewater surveillance, syndromic surveillance of emergency room use and number of deaths. 

In light of the increasingly unreliable data, Bogen said she anticipates in the near future to stop providing daily case counts but instead provide weekly reports of the metrics listed above. 

Bogen said “Right now, all of the indicators are headed in a good direction, that is, they’re declining.”  

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