December 30 PA COVID-19 UPDATE

Now that Christmas has come and gone, and while we won’t know for at least a week or two if Pennsylvanians heeded government warnings about the COVID-19 risks of large and small gathering during the holidays, the state’s virus-related numbers did vastly improve through this past week and weekend.  This was confirmed by Governor Wolf on December 30, in announcing the termination January 4 of the additional mitigation steps ordered on December 12.

At midnight December 30, there were 8,984 additional positive cases of COVID-19 reported for the day, bringing the statewide total to 631,333.  Approximately 19,044 of our total cases are among health care workers.  Statewide percent positivity for the week of December 18 – December 24 stood at 15.1%.

There are 6,022 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, double the peak in the spring. Of that number, 1,174 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. Most of the patients hospitalized are ages 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. More data is available here.

As of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, December 29, there were 319 new deaths reported for a total of 15,672 deaths attributed to COVID-19. County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Pennsylvania hospitals began receiving shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine the week of Dec. 14 and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine the week of Dec. 21.  Through Dec. 30, 96,045 doses of the vaccine have been administered.

A spreadsheet of facilities that have received vaccine can be found here.

For the week of Dec. 18 through Dec. 24, the state Health Department’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard, showed the 7-day total of new cases was 10,321 fewer than the prior 7-day period of Dec. 11 through Dec. 17 (which reported 4,371 fewer new cases than the prior 7-day period of Dec. 4 through Dec. 10). Pennsylvania is still experiencing sizable numbers of new cases - for the most-recent 7-day period recorded by the dashboard, a total of 47,813 new cases were reported – but the latest reported 7-day total is the lowest since the start of December.

Even into the weekend, daily case totals continued to be smaller than prior weeks, with Saturday’s report containing 4,728 new virus cases, which is the lowest daily total reported since Nov. 29, when the total was 4,400. Prior to the slowdown in new cases of the past two weeks, daily totals were routinely in excess of 10,000, with several days above 11,000 and 12,000.

Testing has continued to drop off compared to the highs seen during the early days of December, with the most-recent 7-day period reported by the early warning dashboard having had a bit more than 394,000 tests conducted; that’s down from the prior week’s more than 435,000 tests and the more than 449,000 tests from the week before that. Some of the recent case total slowdown could be attributed to the decline in testing, but with test positivity still dropping, reduced testing doesn’t appear to be the primary contributing factor.

For the first time in a while, the early warning dashboard illustrated a reduction of the 7-day average for hospitalizations, statewide, of 59.5. While the growth in hospitalizations has been slowing for the past couple of weeks, this is the first decline of the 7-day average since late September.

A similar trend is illustrated by the 14-day average, as reported on the state Health Department’s main COVID-19 data dashboard: As of Sunday, Dec. 27, the 14-day COVID-19 hospitalization average is 6,091.4, which is slightly higher than the 5,962.3 of a week earlier (Dec. 20), but reflects a second-straight day of declining hospitalizations, with Friday’s average having been 6,105.6 and Saturday’s having been 6,096. The improvement has been statewide, with the state Health Department showing on its "Reduction of Elective Procedures Dashboard" that each of Pennsylvania’s seven health coalition regions is reporting a decline of COVID-19 hospital admissions during the past 48-hours.

The improving hospitalization situation has even begun to have a positive impact on the 14-day moving average of the number of available intensive care unit (ICU) beds statewide, with that total having increased to 585.5 as of Sunday, up from 577.4 a week ago and a low of 571 reported on Christmas Eve; there are currently 4,564 staffed adult ICU beds statewide and 1,145 are being used by COVID-19 patients.

Apparent concerns regarding the state’s hospitals being overwhelmed in December, based on some statistical models, seem to have been, as they were in the spring, overestimated (though some individual hospitals and health systems are definitely under significant stress): one model upon which Pennsylvania officials have said they are relying (the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, IHME) forecast the state could run out of ICU beds in early December. On Nov. 30, prior to the virus case surge state officials are associating with Thanksgiving, the 14-day average of available ICU beds was 755.6.

Sunday’s statewide COVID-19 hospitalization total is approximately 2.6 percent of the total number of active COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, which is down from last week’s 2.8 percent, the 2.95 percent it was two weeks ago, and the 3.1-to-3.2-percent range it was early in December.

Additionally, those considered recovered from COVID-19 (individuals for whom it is more than 30 days past the date of their first positive test or onset of symptoms) continues to increase.