Pa. weekly COVID update: Case surge not translating into spike in deaths, hospitalizations

As the stealth omicron surge continues, Pennsylvania is averaging just over 3,000 new COVID-19 cases per day over the last week, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Specifically, the state’s case rate has increased to 3,112 in the last week as case numbers continue to climb. The surge, fueled by the BA.2 subvariant of omicron, has seen case averages jump by more than 2,000 cases per day in the last month, but by nearly 1,000 just in the past week.

Pennsylvania has amassed 2,849,663 total cases since March of 2020, the fifth-most of all 50 states.

The state had a similar rate in mid-February, but that was on a long come-down from the staggering rates at the height of the winter surge. It’s extremely unlikely this current surge will reach anywhere close to those heights.

However, case rates are still currently moving northward across the state, including in the Lehigh Valley. Northampton County’s seven-day rolling average is up to 108 cases per day, and Lehigh County’s is up to 109 cases per day.

The two counties have a total combined case count of 173,271 cases.

The seven-day death average is a key indicator that, even as cases rise, few of the cases are serious enough to be fatal. Pennsylvania is averaging 12 deaths per day over the last week, down from 15 the previous week.

The death average has been hovering around 10 to 15 deaths per day since mid-April, and by this point, if the death rate was going to mirror the increase of the case rate, the average would’ve started following the same surging trend by now.

The state’s hospitalization level is at somewhat of a midpoint between the case and death rates, though it leans more towards the latter in terms of its severity. Currently, there are 907 Pennsylvania residents hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 96 are in the ICU and 36 are on a ventilator.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

While the number of hospitalized patients has more than doubled since April 9, when the state reached a 2022 low of 409 patients, the number isn’t increasing with the same severity as the case rate, and it’s not reached a level at which hospitals are becoming overwhelmed.

In fact, using April 9 as an anchor date given the low patient numbers, the number of ventilators in use is actually encouraging. Then, it was at 44, which was a low number considering the overwhelming levels hospitals were at during the winter surge. Today, that number is at 36 ventilators in use, actually dropping even as more patients were admitted.

Intensive Care Unit levels are slightly increasing, up to 96 total, so there are certainly some that are still experiencing severe COVID-19 cases, but most are not severe enough that they would be put on a ventilator.

As cases are rising, the best way to avoid a severe case is by being both fully vaccinated and receiving a booster shot, or two boosters if you’re over the age of 50, health experts say.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania has 68.6% of its population fully vaccinated. Of the fully vaccinated population, 42.8% of fully vaccinated residents have also received their first booster dose. Over the last month or so, Pennsylvania’s vaccine rates have stayed largely stagnant.

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Connor Lagore may be reached at [email protected]