Patch: Montco Warns Of 'Exponential' COVID Surge, Hospitalizations Rise
by Justin Heinze
October 28, 2020
NORRISTOWN, PA — Officials in Montgomery County are warning of a potential "exponential" increase in coronavirus cases in the county, as the fall surge of the virus has already caused levels to skyrocket here.
The county now has 70 individuals hospitalized as of Wednesday, marking a 54 percent increase over the week before. Though the county has been a bastion from the worst impacts of the virus for months now, the surge appears to have caught up. The "exponential" surge potential, in which the presence of the virus could rise well above its peak in the county back in the spring, is based on modeling from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"People are getting lax, people are going indoors more as the weather gets colder," Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh said. "People need to be mindful about how they conduct their day to day lives. The social gatherings really need to stop."
The total number of cases from the past week is 571, an increase of 237 over the previous week.
The percent positivity rate on all coronavirus tests also increased for the first time in months, after a steady decline ever since early August. After dropping to a record low 2.10 percent on Oct. 16, the rate has jumped up nearly a full point to 3.12 as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the latest county statistics. Statewide, that rate rose above the "concerning" mark of 5 percent Wednesday.
Hospital beds are still available despite the recent spike in hospitalizations, but that may not be the case if basic preventative measures like masks and social distancing are not strictly followed, officials said.
Arkoosh said they are not currently mandating any changes to policies for schools, business closures, bars and restaurants, or public spaces.
"We're asking our community to cooperate fully with all of the existing mitigation guidance and measures," Arkoosh said, adding "There's nothing political about this. There's nothing different we're doing today than we've been doing for 34 weeks."
Transmissions have occurred in businesses, but not more than before the surge. Primarily, the new spread is continuing to occur in social gatherings, often connected to youth sports. However, transmission is not occurring on field, but rather in gatherings which have some relation to sports events.
The spike has impacted Montgomery County school districts as well, even as many of them have already reopened to in-person instruction or have made plans for a return. There have been 594 students across the county who have had "close contact" with an infected person this school year, officials said.
Any student within six feet of contact must go into quarantine.
To handle the increase in cases, Arkoosh says that they're expanding their contact tracing teams. Testing capacity was increased in the county before this surge, so that all together, sites can handle 300 tests per day.
Cooler weather does allow for the virus to transmit more easily, health officials say, as it stays airborne for longer in colder air. It also draws more people indoors, where the virus also spreads easier.
Nearly half of the state's counties now have concerning percent positivity levels, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said. Another 2,228 new cases were reported Wednesday around Pennsylvania, bringing the state numbers to a similar level as the height of the pandemic in April.