Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine on Saturday said that the state has “been able to bend the curve” of new covid-19 cases, but cautioned that it is too early to start considering lifting the social distancing measures that appear to be helping to slow the virus.
“Previously, we were seeing an exponential rise of covid-19,” Levine said. “We were seeing a doubling of new cases approximately every two to three days. It was going up in almost like a straight line.”
Now, Levine said, there are still large numbers of new cases daily, “but we’re not seeing as many new cases as we had before. The tentative conclusion is that we have been able to bend that curve.”
That, in turn, means that as Pennsylvania approaches the so-called “surge” of coronavirus cases, “it will be a wave of new cases that will go up and down, but it won’t be a tidal wave that will completely overwhelm our healthcare system,” Levine said.
She voiced that optimism on a day that saw 1,676 new covid-19 cases across Pennsylvania, bringing the statewide total to 21,655. Seventy-eight new deaths were also reported, for a statewide total of 494.
Asked when the surge would hit Pennsylvania, Levine said it could come within “the next week or more” in eastern Pennsylvania, and later in other parts of the state. She said that 46 percent of Pennsylvania hospital beds, 38 percent of ICU beds and 70 percent of the state’s supply of ventilators remain available.
In Philadelphia and surrounding areas such as Bucks County, “we have enough regular beds and we have enough ICU beds and we have enough ventilators,” Levine said, “but we are watching that data very closely.”
As for when the state might relax its restrictions and allow parts of the economy to reopen, Levine said plans are being discussed for a progressive, region-by-region opening, but “now is not the time. We have been successful in flattening the curve, but we still have significant new numbers of covid-19 and we have to protect the public’s health and save lives.”
Numbers in Bucks County on Saturday were also encouraging, as the 68 new cases reported were a decrease from previous days and showed virtually no community spread, said Health Department Director Dr. David Damsker. The new cases remain heavily concentrated in healthcare workers and residents of congregate care facilities, he said.
“This is working,” Damsker said of the social distancing measures in effect across the state.
The county had three additional coronavirus-related deaths reported Saturday, bringing the countywide total to 35. The decedents were an 89-year-old man, a 73-year-old woman and a 64-year-old man, all with underlying health conditions.
Today’s new cases raised the Bucks County total to 1,170. Eighty-three covid-19 patients are hospitalized, 23 of them on ventilators and in critical condition. One hundred seventy-nine patients have been confirmed to be recovered.