Wolf Levine Lancaster EMS

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaks at the Lancaster EMS station, 100 E. Charlotte St., Millersville, in this file photo taken Thursday, July 30, 2020. Levine and Gov. Tom Wolf visited the station to talk about COVID-19.

Pennsylvania’s health secretary Thursday urged the public to avoid gatherings of any kind and to cooperate with COVID-19 case investigations.

Dr. Rachel Levine made the remarks during a press conference to discuss the state's ongoing surge in coronavirus cases.

The virtual media briefing was held on the same day the state recorded its highest number of infections in a single day — 5,488 — since the virus emerged in March.

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Here are five takeaways from the press conference:

• The rise in infections indicates community spread. Pennsylvania’s percent positivity rate, or the percentage of all positive COVID-19 tests, is nearly 7%. According to the World Health Organization, positivity rates above 5% are considered too high. Lancaster, with a positive rate of 6.5%, is among 52 counties with a rate above 5%. That’s 12 more counties than last week.

• While therapeutics such as Remdesivir and a breathing technique that places patients on their stomachs have produced better outcomes, the novel coronavirus has not weakened.

“There is absolutely no evidence that the virus is less severe or virulent than it was before,” Levine said.

• Roughly 36% of Pennsylvanians have been tested for COVID-19 through October.

• If the rapid spread of the virus cannot be controlled, Director of Contact Tracing and Testing Michael Huff warned that “strict mitigation strategies will again be needed to contain the virus.” Neither he nor Levine elaborated on what those strategies might include.

• While school districts retain local control, Levine encouraged those with significant community spread to consider remote learning. She also suggested college students should be tested for the coronavirus three to four days before returning home for the holidays.

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