By: KDKA-TV News Staff
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Allegheny County leaders are warning people that if coronavirus cases continue to climb, national models show the community will lose “hundreds” of people in the coming months.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, health department Director Dr. Debra Bogen and representatives from AHN, Heritage Valley Health System, St. Clair Hospital and UPMC held a briefing on the lawn of Point State Park Thursday to update the community on the virus.
“Although there are no new public health orders planned at this time, we will continue watching the situation in our county closely and we will intervene if necessary,” Dr. Bogen says.
According to Dr. Bogen’s data, our cases have been rising since mid-October and have been accelerating. Cases are climbing, and we nearly doubled our weekly case count from about 950 to 1,600 the week ending Nov. 6. We’re on pace to hit 2,000 cases this week, she says.
For every 100 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the county, two people have died.
“According to national models, if cases continue to increase, we will have hundreds of people die in our community in the coming months,” Dr. Bogen says. “That is a painful thought as we approach the holidays. Together we can, and we must, ensure that we lose as few members of our community as possible. To do that, we must work to stop the spread of the virus.”
Dr. Bogen says case investigations point to gatherings and parties as the source of the surge. Fitzgerald pleaded to fellow parents, asking them to keep their children away from parties because cases are being linked to sleepovers and kids seeing their friends after school.
“Halloween was not a good time,” says Fitzgerald. He also says it’s important to limit gatherings ahead of the holidays, as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is “one of the busiest nights of the year.”
To illustrate the point, Dr. Bogen says there was an outbreak linked to one wedding with 45 guests, saying 18 people have been infected. One person has been hospitalized, and one of the cases is pregnant.
Dr. Bogen says to stop or “sharply curtail” gatherings and hold them outside if possible. If not, limit the size to just a few people wearing masks and social distancing.
She’s also asking people to answer calls from the health department for contact tracing. She says fewer people are answering calls and some are even treating staff members “abusively.”
Everyone is urged to answer their phone. The health department has made a few changes to its contact tracing process, Dr. Bogen says. If you get a call, you’ll be asked fewer questions and you’ll have the chance to complete a secure online form to provide additional information. Dr. Bogen says this will save time so they can reach more people.
If you have symptoms or are a close contact of a case, get tested, Dr. Bogen says, and make sure you get your flu shot.
Several doctors spoke Thursday, and Fitzgerald asked people to listen to the medical experts, not politicians. Doctors say there have been increases in hospitalizations, although it’s just a “fraction” of capacity.
“We know that’s going to continue through the holidays, so we are prepared for that. We have lots of capacity for those patients, contingency plans in place,” said Dr. Don Whiting with AHN.