Kellen Stepler | Editor-in-Chief
Allegheny County issued a stay-at-home advisory Wednesday, Nov. 18; the same day that the county recorded 620 new coronavirus cases — an all-time high.
In a weekly coronavirus briefing Wednesday with county leaders, Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald said that the county has seen “alarming numbers” in regards to COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
While not quite the same level of an order, Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said that people should not have guests in their homes and should cancel their traditional Thanksgiving gatherings involving people in other households.
The county’s previous high was set Sunday, with 527 new cases.
“For the past few weeks, I’ve asked people to follow the rules, curtail gatherings and parties, stay home except for essentials and wear masks,” Bogen said Wednesday. “I’m done asking. Today, I’m telling you that these are things we must all do to bring down the level of spread and keep our community safe.”
People should only leave their homes for work, school and essential activities — like medical care or grocery shopping.
“We have really done a good job at work and in school, and the official activities that we go to during the daylight hours,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s after work and after school where we let our guard down and where these numbers have really escalated to a dangerous level.”
Bogen said that she hoped to avoid turning the advisory into an order, like the county originally did on March 23.
“We can do this without an order if everybody cooperates and follows those recommendations,” she said.
“County residents are expected to follow the advisory, and if we do, cases will start to drop,” Bogen said. “If we don’t, cases will continue to increase. If the spread of COVID-19 in Allegheny County increases, I will have no choice but to enact official health orders.”
Fitzgerald said that the county did not come out of Halloween very well, with cases linked to parties and other get-togethers. Following Bogen’s lead, he also asked people to stay home during the Thanksgiving weekend.
“We have one of the most active social times of the year — the four days of Thanksgiving weekend,” Fitzgerald said. “We really need people this year to stay home.”
Pennsylvania reported 6,339 positive cases of COVID-19, 2,737 hospitalizations and 110 new deaths from the virus on Wednesday, according to data from the state. 59 out of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties — including Allegheny County — are described as having “substantial transmission.” The positivity rate of tests in the state increased to 9.6% this week, up from 6.8% last week.
Allegheny County reported 355 hospitalizations for COVID-19 Wednesday. The county has seen a seven-day average of 442 cases per day and a seven-day total of 3,905 cases — both new highs.
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced four “mitigation efforts.” She said that travelers must receive a negative test 72 hours before entering Pennsylvania or quarantine for 14 days if they don’t. Additionally, masks must be worn at all times, even if people are six feet apart.
Levine also recommended that colleges and universities should implement a testing strategy to prevent an outbreak before the holidays and hospitals should move up elective procedures and prepare to suspend them.
The state’s order takes effect Friday, Nov. 20.
Despite the new surge in cases, Levine said that the Department of Health has no plans to return to the “red, yellow, green” model of mitigation like in the spring.