The volume of COVID-19 testing rose significantly this week in Lancaster County and statewide, but what had been a steady decline in the rate of positive tests appears to have stalled.
That means a trend of “more tests, fewer new cases” has become a trend of “more tests, more new cases.”
Increased testing in nursing homes has identified additional cases in some of those facilities. But even with expanded testing there and elsewhere, the portion of the overall population that has been tested locally and statewide remains below 6%.
From June 19-25, some 80,733 Pennsylvanians were tested for COVID-19, according to data from the state Department of Health. That was up 14.7% from the 70,406 tested in the previous seven days and was the sharpest testing increase in five weeks.
Meanwhile, the percentage of people testing positive — a figure that had been above 17% in early May and falling steadily each week — ticked up slightly, from 4.2% the previous week to 4.4% in the past seven days.
That means the number of new cases also increased in the past week after weeks of steady decline. There were 3,534 new cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania in the past seven days, up from 2,923 the week before.
In Lancaster County, the number of COVID-19 tests June 19-25 was up 43.9 percent from the previous seven days, climbing from 2,937 to 4,226. The rate of tests that turned out positive fell only slightly, from 8.0% to 7.9%, which led to a jump in the number of new cases from 235 in the prior week to 335 in the past seven days.
On Tuesday, for example, the county recorded 77 new cases of COVID-19, it's highest number this month. But it also recorded 1,041 tests, which was its highest during the pandemic.
Ideally, the percentage of positive tests would steadily decline as the volume of testing increased, indicating limited spread in the community. Lancaster County's current rate of positive tests is less than half of the 17% it was logging in early May, but its current rate is among the highest in the state, where the rate fell steadily until this week.
Local hospitalizations, meanwhile, ebbed a bit this week after hovering for several weeks in the 50 to 60 range most days at Lancaster General and Wellspan Ephrata, the two Lancaster County hospitals that publicly disclose their data.
On Thursday, their combined number of COVID-19 patients was 39, the fewest since mid-May or earlier.