HARRISBURG, Pa. - With a spike in coronavirus cases expected to grow Thursday, Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh and 1.2 million residents, imposed a one-week shutdown of bars, restaurants and casinos and all gatherings of more than 25 people.
The order is to take effect after midnight Thursday, the county's health director, Dr. Debra Bogen, said in a statement.
The move comes as Pennsylvania on Thursday reported its highest one-day total of confirmed coronavirus cases since May, and Allegheny County reported its highest one-day total of positive tests that officials called a larger increase than expected.
Bogen also asked Allegheny County residents to follow a voluntary stay-at-home protocol, limiting travel outside the home to necessities.
Health officials in Philadelphia and Allegheny County say they are finding that many of the people testing positive are describing socializing in bars and returning from beach vacations and travel to coronavirus hot spots in other parts of the U.S.
While Pennsylvania's hospitalizations for the virus are below where they were a week ago, according to state statistics, an Associated Press analysis shows the percentage of people testing positive has risen in the past week.
Allegheny County reported more than 230 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, a day after it reported a single-day high of 110.
"While an increase in the number of cases was expected -- this is larger than expected," county officials said in a statement. "The expectation is that the numbers will also significantly increase again tomorrow."
The county's percentage of positive tests and hospitalizations are also on the rise. On Twitter, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who lives in Allegheny County, called Thursday's figure "truly alarming."
In an interview on KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf's top health adviser, Health Secretary Rachel Levine, was asked if now is the time is try herd immunity.
She said no, warning that the disease can make even younger adults very sick.
"We know that significant numbers of people get very sick from the virus, not just seniors, but younger adults as well, in their 20s, 30s and 40s, and that would overwhelm the hospitals," Levine said.
It also would lead to more cases in nursing homes, Levine said, citing academic researchers who found that outbreaks in nursing homes are driven most by how widespread the virus is in the community around it.
What the state needs to do is contain the virus using prevention measures, such as mask-wearing, and targeted efforts to tamp down outbreaks until further treatment methods or a vaccine is developed, Levine said.
Allegheny County health authorities say the median age of the people testing positive is 29.
The county, Pennsylvania's second-most populous after Philadelphia, had avoided the higher case counts that hit Philadelphia and much of eastern Pennsylvania in the spring. But over the weekend, Allegheny County officials ordered a halt to drinking alcohol in bars and restaurants in response to a spike in positive tests.
Statewide, officials reported more than 830 people newly testing positive for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to above 88,000. The state last recorded more than 800 new positive tests in May. It also reported another 25 coronavirus-related deaths for a statewide total of 6,712 since early March.
Pennsylvania officials are also asking residents to consider postponing plans to travel to a coronavirus hot spot, and to self-quarantine for 14 days and get tested when returning from the following states:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- Masks mandatory in all public spaces in Pennsylvania, Gov. Wolf says
- Philadelphia pauses some reopening plans including indoor dining, gyms after rise in cases
- Pennsylvania court turns down lawmakers' bid to end shutdown
- Pennsylvania extends mitigation guidelines on indoor dining for patrons, staff
- Pennsylvania county halts on-site alcohol consumption amid virus spike
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