PolicyLab's Covid-19 case projections for Lancaster County show a gradual decrease if the current level of social distancing is maintained.
PolicyLab's Covid-19 case projections for Lancaster County show a gradual decrease if the current level of social distancing is maintained.

Lancaster County continues to have a "promising outlook" for containing Covid-19, according to a research lab tracking the virus nationwide.

The PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is modeling the outbreak for 389 individual U.S. counties, based on weather, social distancing and other factors.

The model's latest update indicates Lancaster County remains at "low risk for virus resurgence," spokeswoman Lauren Walens said in an email.

The projections can be seen online at "Mapping Covid-19 in Your Community."

PolicyLab's model forecasts new cases trending downward in Lancaster County, assuming current social distancing levels persist. Social distancing is measured using the reduction in visits to non-essential sites compared with pre-pandemic levels, as tracked by the analytics company Unacast.

Nationwide, the majority of communities "have seen cases rise in the last two weeks, but are forecasted to plateau," PolicyLab said.

That said, counties in Texas, Alabama and Florida are at "higher risk" for outbreaks over the next four weeks, the institution said. Other areas of concern include the cities of Chicago and Mineapolis and parts of Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina and Mississippi and South Dakota.

PolicyLab's projection for Lancaster County's R0, the average number of new cases infected by a given case of Covid-19.
PolicyLab's projection for Lancaster County's R0, the average number of new cases infected by a given case of Covid-19.

The next two to four weeks are "a critical time period," PolicyLab's Dr. Gregory Tasian said.
That's because rising temperatures and humidity — which may suppress the coronavirus — are interacting with populations that are increasingly relaxing their social distancing practices.

"We will be able to interpret fairly soon how those forces are increasing or decreasing projections for spread of this virus," Tasian said, "providing better guidance to communities as they plan for summer activities.

Local authorities should take care to ensure case loads remain within hospital capacities, and should be mindful that higher rates of sustained transmission can lead to outbreaks in high-risk locations, such as nursing homes, Dr. David Rubin said.

As of Friday, available resources in Lancaster County included 97 conventional inpatient hospital beds, 19 adult ICU beds and more than 140 ventilators, according to the state Hospital Preparedness Dashboard.

Lancaster County is scheduled to move to Pennsylvania's "yellow" reopening phase on June 5.

Tim Stuhldreher

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