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2020 News

Expanded Testing Leads to County’s Biggest Spike in COVID-19 Cases

March 27, 2020

Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

After a one-day lull, COVID-19 cases shot up again today in Bucks County, posting by far the largest spike since the pandemic arrived here.

Fifty-three more people tested positive for the virus today, bringing the county’s total cases to 181. Dr. David Damsker, director of the county’s health department, attributed the large increase to a multi-day backlog of results coming in late today from expanded testing sites.

Larger sites, he said, have been testing several hundred people per day. “It doubles our largest increase to date,” Damsker said, adding that he remains encouraged that community spread continues to diminish. Coronavirus lab.02

Most of the new positives resulted from known contacts with confirmed cases, often family members, Damsker said. Others were people who had taken airplane flights recently or had been to New York. A handful of first responders and healthcare workers, whose essential jobs bring them inevitably into contact with the public, also were among the new patients.

During an early-afternoon news briefing, Damsker had reported only 16 new cases and 144 total. “I want to make it clear; we have a lot more than 144 cases in Bucks County,” he said at the time.

The late afternoon numbers bore that out. “Long story short, we had a large influx from some of the large testing sites,” Damsker said.

Fifteen patients are now hospitalized, six of them on ventilators in critical condition.

Asked about the effect of social distancing measures, Damsker said, “Soon, if not this weekend then early next week … we should not be seeing community spread if everyone is staying in their homes. We shouldn’t be seeing cases where we can’t identify the source.”

As the county’s first week under Gov. Wolf’s stay-at-home order draws to a close, the economic hardships wrought by the drastic, virus-fighting measures already are evident.

Bucks County saw 2,500 people file for unemployment this month, a 200 percent increase, County Commissioner Bob Harvie said.

“We know that the pain is setting in, and we’re trying to do everything we can to help,” Harvie said, including offering zero-percent loans to some businesses, pushing back property tax deadlines and studying the array of incentives, tax breaks and other relief emanating from the state and federal governments.

“We’re still trying to digest everything that’s coming out of Harrisburg and D.C,” he said.

Asked when Wolf might consider starting to lift some of the stay-at-home orders, which now extend to 19 Pennsylvania counties, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said no time soon.

“What we’re looking for is a consistent plateauing of new cases, and then eventually a decrease in the number of new cases we’re seeing,” Levine said. “We’re not there yet.”

Pennsylvania now has almost 2,350 confirmed cases of COVID-19, resulting in at least 22 deaths.

Residents of 34 Bucks County municipalities have tested positive for the virus, as New Britain Township and Langhorne, Newtown, Sellersville and Tullytown Boroughs were added to the list today. A map showing those municipalities on the county’s data portal https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com/ will continue to be updated as new cases arise.