Pennsylvania hit a new milestone in the coronavirus pandemic Friday as its two-week volume of new cases surpassed its previous peak in mid-April.
The Department of Health reported a record 2,219 new COVID-19 cases Friday, the state's highest daily total so far. That gave the state a 14-day total of 21,265 new cases, or 166 per 100,000 population based on 2019 U.S. Census population estimates.
The new rate topped the previous 14-day peak of 164 new cases per 100,000, recorded on April 18, when the state had 21,052 new cases over two weeks.
“Mask-wearing is required in all businesses and whenever leaving home,” the department noted in a press release. “Consistent mask-wearing is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.”
Lancaster County recorded 84 new cases on Friday, its highest daily total in two weeks. That pushed its 14-day rate of new cases to 144 per 100,000. That’s the highest rate since May 2 and not far below the peak of 152 per 100,000 set on April 20.
Testing volume is much higher now than in the spring, so positivity rates are lower. But those rates are rising, and so are hospitalizations and deaths.
Though they remain well below their spring levels, hospitalizations and deaths have both increased in October after months of decline.
Statewide, the average daily number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has jumped 85% this month, from 458 on Sept. 30 to 848 on Friday. Lancaster County’s figure has more than doubled, from 12 to 26, though much of the increase occurred in the first two weeks of the month.
On Friday, there were 34 COVID-19 patients at either Lancaster General or WellSpan Ephrata hospitals, according to data posted on their websites. That was the highest daily number since Aug. 11.
With a week left in the month, Pennsylvania has reported 483 COVID-19 deaths so far in October, compared with 469 for all of September. A total of 8,625 people have died of COVID-19 in the state since March.
As of Friday, Dr. Stephen Diamantoni, the county’s coroner, had reported 14 deaths so far in October — one more than he reported for the full month of September. Diamontoni’s total COVID-19 death tally is now at 441 for Lancaster County.
Pennsylvania was reporting test results on about 6,000 new people per day back in mid-April, and that number is now approaching 16,000. The total number of daily tests administered — including people who are tested multiple times as part of universal testing programs in workplaces, nursing homes and elsewhere — is currently about twice that high, according to the Department of Health.
The department lists Pennsylvania’s positivity rate for all tests at 5.0% in the seven-day period of Oct. 16-22, up from 4.2% in the previous seven days. Lancaster County’s rate is listed at 4.7%, up from 3.9% in the previous seven days.
When including only those people testing negative for the first time in the calculation — as the Department of Health does in its daily data reports — the positivity rate is much higher.
Using that calculation, the state's positivity rate was 10.2% for Oct. 16-22, up from 8.4% in the prior week. Lancaster County's rate was 9.1%, up from 8.2%.