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2020 News

Bucks COVID Cases Rise to Record Levels Despite Low Deaths, Hospitalizations

November 9, 2020

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

COVID-19 infections rose to unprecedented levels last week in Bucks County, with more cases reported than in any week of the eight-month pandemic.

Despite the record spike in cases, deaths and hospitalizations remained at relatively low levels among county residents.

The Bucks County Department of Health reported 826 additional infections from Nov. 1 – 7, an average of about 118 cases per day, and a 79 percent increase over the previous week. The average daily count is more than 3.5 times higher than it was a month ago.

The county also set a single-day record with 161 new cases on Friday, surpassing the previous high of 144 cases on April 15.

There was not, however, a corresponding increase in deaths or hospitalizations.

Three deaths were reported: two men ages 54 and 71, and a 91-year-old woman. All had histories of underlying medical conditions and one lived in a long-term care facility. By comparison, the two weeks last spring when previous case records were set had more than 90 deaths each.

By the end of the week, 16 county residents were hospitalized with coronavirus, one of whom was in critical condition and on a ventilator. That number also is dwarfed by hospitalization levels reported last spring.

The Bucks County Commissioners will hold a news conference Tuesday morning to address the rising case numbers. The briefing will be held at the new Emergency Services warehouse off of Route 611 in Doylestown, where truckloads of personal protective equipment are being loaded and dispatched to hospitals, first responders, long-term care facilities and other destinations throughout the county.

Dr. David Damsker, director of the county health department, said the anticipated autumn spike in new COVID cases has been exacerbated by ill-advised social gatherings in the community, such as Halloween parties, sports-related get-togethers, weddings and other celebrations. He expressed concern that increased infections in the community could spread to employees at long-term care facilities, raising the chances of renewed outbreaks among vulnerable older people.

Damsker warned against what he called “COVID fatigue,” saying that while it is human nature for people to drop their guard after months of restrictions, it remains vital for citizens to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing. “People are getting it from unmasked exposures,” he said.

For example, Damsker said, COVID spread within Bucks County schools has not been happening because students, teachers and staff are required to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

At the same time, 261 school students and 59 school staff have been infected this semester because of activities and exposures outside of schools, he said. And more than a third of them were utilizing full virtual learning in their school district when they became ill.

The unprecedented county case numbers have overwhelmed the health department’s capacity to perform contact tracing on many of the new infections. Of the 826 cases reported last week, 337 of the patients were unable to be reached for interviews immediately.

“At these very high case counts, contract tracing starts becoming difficult and less effective, so we depend more and more on education and people taking personal responsibility for keeping spread in check,” Damsker said. “We will continue focusing on schools and long-term care facilities as our investigative priorities.”

Of the remaining 489 cases, 262 were spread within households or from gatherings with family and friends, 104 were attributed to community spread, 44 were infected at workplaces, 41 are residents or workers at long-term care facilities, 20 resulted from out-of-state travel, and 18 are healthcare workers.

Bucks County now has had more than 10,000 residents test positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic, reaching a total of 10,545 on Saturday. A total of 539 deaths have been attributed to the virus, including 417 long-term care residents, while 8,953 are confirmed to have recovered.

The median age of those who have been infected in Bucks is 48, while the median age of death is 84.

Statistics, charts and other coronavirus-related information can be found on the s data portal: https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com.

An interactive Bucks County map showing numbers of active infections by municipality can be found here.
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