City warns against holiday gatherings as Covid rates reach record

by Kate Dolan
Posted 11/10/20

The city announced a record-setting daily coronavirus case count among Philadelphia residents, reporting 742 new confirmed cases on Friday.

“That 742 number is the highest daily number …

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City warns against holiday gatherings as Covid rates reach record

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The city announced a record-setting daily coronavirus case count among Philadelphia residents, reporting 742 new confirmed cases on Friday.

“That 742 number is the highest daily number we’ve had ever, during the entire course of this epidemic,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley at the special COVID-19 update press conference on Friday morning.

The large number of test results received for the day — over 5,300 — is one reason for the higher case count but the percent positivity rate for the day was 14%, a high number compared to recent positivity rates, which Farley already deemed concerning.

For the past week, ending on October 31, the city saw an average of 387 cases per day. The positivity rate for the same week was 9.1%.

“That’s the highest percent positive we’ve had since mid-May and that has increased by about fourfold compared to where we were in late September,” said Farley of last week’s rate. In mid-September, 2.8% of people tested were positive for the infection.

As of Friday, the total number of confirmed cases in Philadelphia since the beginning of the epidemic is 47,675. There are an additional 16 probable cases from rapid antigen tests not yet tallied in the number of confirmed cases. Cases are rising across all age groups, racial and ethnic groups and zip codes in the city.

The rapid increase in cases is being accompanied by an increase in hospitalizations for the infection. As of Friday, 267 people are hospitalized in Philadelphia. In mid-September, 90 people were hospitalized for COVID-19. At the epidemic’s peak in April, there were more than 1,000 in Philadelphia hospitals for the virus.

“We know they can handle many more patients than they are handling right now,” said Dr. Farley of hospital capacity. “But this is something we’ll have to watch closely over the next three months.”

Friday also reported five new deaths, bringing the total number of deaths among Philadelphia residents to 1,889.

The health commissioner said the city expects an increase in deaths in the coming weeks but noted that because increased testing is identifying those with mild or no symptoms, “a smaller percentage of the people with this infection will die now than they might have in the spring.”

Although no new safety precautions or restrictions were announced at Friday’s press conference, Farley urged people to stay away from others and avoid gatherings as much as possible. Contact tracing continues to show that spread is occurring at small social gatherings and he emphasized that individuals need to restrict themselves, especially as the holiday season arrives.

“Family gatherings right now are simply very dangerous, family gatherings around a meal in particular,” Farley said, strongly recommending that people celebrate via video conference.

Dr. Farley urged people to step up safety precautions for a little bit longer as the vaccine will not arrive before the expected surge of cases over the next few months. Acknowledging the holidays and current events as potentially shifting people’s attention from Covid-19 vigilance, he opened the conference emphasizing the need to stay focused on preventing the spread of the virus.

“We’ve all been watching the election, but it’s time to focus again on the Covid pandemic because we’re continuing to see rapidly rising case counts and now increases in hospitalizations,” said the healthy commissioner.

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