It was the announcement that pivoted the COVID-19 crisis in Pennsylvania.
Then Gov. Tom Wolf announced on March 6, 2020 the first two COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth. In the days that followed, we saw the virus become a pandemic, shutting down the world as we knew it as the death toll rose sharply.
Three years later, the death toll in the commonwealth stands at 50,281, 3,715 of them coming from our 10-county market area.
Locally: Cambria County, which at one point in December 2020 averaged the most cases of COVID-19 in the nation, has had the highest death toll and most deaths per capita in the region in that three-year period, with 8153 total deaths and 624 deaths per 100,000 people. That per capita total ranks 5th in Pennsylvania, and 79th in the nation. The averages for Huntingdon County (618) and Jefferson County (613) also rank in the nation’s top 100.
But as we enter year number four, and despite the occasional fear of dual and tridemics, the worst appears to be over. After a last surge heading into 2022, Pennsylvania’s death rate has hovered around 20 per day for the past year, less than 1/10 of where it was at its worst peak in December 2020.
One thing that has remained constant is its impact on our older population. 89% of deaths from the pandemic were those who were 60 or older, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
And while vaccines have helped, the constant changes and boosters have taken their toll. While 77% of eligible Pennsylvanians have completed their primary series of shots, according to the CDC, just 18% have received their updated booster dose.
All of our counties right now, outside of Cameron County, are considered to be at “low” community levels of COVID-19, according to the CDC. Only about 2.5% of U.S. counties are under high risk, and none are in Pennsylvania.