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COVID-19 Cases on the Rise

Philadelphia’s Health Department has put its mask mandate back in place as Pennsylvania is seeing another rise in Covid-19 cases.

Covid case numbers are up more than 50% in the past two weeks in the state, but still, the average is below 1,000 per day.

A lot of those bumps are in isolated counties around Philadelphia, the Wilkes Barre/Scranton area, and locally in Centre County. Still, the averages are roughly a little more than 10 cases per 100,000 people per day right now.

Over the last two weeks 27 states including Pennsylvania have seen a rise in cases, experts say, largely driven by the new BA.2 variant accounting for nearly three-fourths of all new cases.

“It’s true that we are seeing infections rise in a few places and we will in this pandemic,” Dr. Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator, said. “I’ve always believed that we got to make these decisions on the local level based on the conditions on the ground and I think it’s great for cities like Philadelphia to make those decisions based on what’s happening locally.”

But even with a renewed focus on the nation’s case count, some experts are questioning whether it’s still an effective indicator saying the number of daily Covid cases is dramatically undercounted with more people using at-home tests.

Just over three months ago, at the height of the Omicron wave, the U.S. was performing nearly two million tests a day. Now that number is down to just over 500,000. Others with mild symptoms are choosing to skip the test altogether.

“I think it’s great that people are testing at home but one of the costs of that is that we can’t always identify how people are getting infected,” Zha said. “That’s why it’s really important to also look at hospitalizations.”

During the two-week case spike, hospitalizations have continued to drop off by 14% in Pennsylvania and deaths are down 36%.

As for how Pennsylvania has responded as a whole for the pandemic, a new study published this week from the University of Chicago and the National Bureau of Economic Research, gave Pennsylvania a “D” grade, ranking 42nd overall, based on factors like health outcomes, economic performance, and impacts on education.

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