Rising Covid case count concerns city officials

by Kate Dolan
Posted 10/27/20

Daily case counts of Covid-19 are rising in Philadelphia, and while the growth is partially due to increased testing, health leaders are concerned.

 “We may be entering a dangerous …

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Rising Covid case count concerns city officials

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Daily case counts of Covid-19 are rising in Philadelphia, and while the growth is partially due to increased testing, health leaders are concerned.

 “We may be entering a dangerous period with this virus,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley on Tuesday, Oct. 20 during the city’s weekly Covid-19 press conference.

On Friday, October 23, 397 new cases of Covid-19 were reported after the Philadelphia Department of Public Health received 5,800 test results, a larger than usual amount for one day.

“Today’s numbers are a clear warning that the epidemic is growing rapidly in our region,” said. Farley on Friday. “Everyone in Philadelphia should be even more cautious — avoiding contact with others unnecessarily and wearing a mask whenever you must be around anyone other than your household members.”

More than 200 daily cases of Covid-19 were reported each day for Tuesday through Thursday of last week. Residents who have been tracking the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s daily updates will notice that these numbers represent a significant increase.

“These are the highest weekly averages that we’ve seen in Philadelphia since mid-May,” said Farley. For the past week, ending on October 17, the average daily case count was 189. For the week ending October 10, the average was 184 cases per day.

The high case counts reflect increased testing. In the past week, the city did about 4,000 tests per day. In mid-July, that number was around 2,600 per day. In May, 1,500 tests were performed each day. 

Farley expressed concern about the increasing positivity rate — the number of people testing positive for the virus. The latest data reported to the health department shows that last week’s positivity rate was 4.8% and for the week before, the rate reached 5.1%. This is an increase from mid-September when the rate was down to 2.8%. In mid-July, 5.5% tested positive, and in late May, the positivity rate was 9.5%.

The increase in cases is occurring in every zip code in the city in the last seven days, not just the far northeast and South Philadelphia neighborhoods as was the case earlier this month.

Contact tracing continues to show that spread is occurring in households and small gatherings but there is renewed concern about office environments. The latest information from cases interviewed in the week of October 11 showed that 17% reported being exposed at the office, as opposed to 7-9% in September.

Farley said that of about 50 schools providing some kind of in-person instruction, there has only been one school where information “suggests that there was spread within the classroom.” The Philadelphia School, a private school located on Lombard Street in Southwest Center City, has had 15 cases so far.

As of Friday, the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases among Philadelphia residents is 41,564 and the number of residents who have succumbed to the virus is 1,853. The city is averaging about 15 deaths per week.

Around the state, in New Jersey and across the nation, case rates are rising.

“At this point, they are not far from the peak that they saw in mid-July, which was the highest case count we’ve had since the beginning of the epidemic,” said Farley of the country’s collective increase.

For the latest information and data on the City’s response to the pandemic, visit phila.gov/covid-19

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