Pa. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine speaks to reporters during an online media call on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. (Source: PA.gov)
Pa. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine speaks to reporters during an online media call on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. (Source: PA.gov)

Despite Pennsylvania's coronavirus incidence soaring past the levels seen this spring, the state doesn't intend to reimpose a lockdown, the state's top health official said Monday.

"We have no plans to go back to red/yellow/green or any type of schema such as that," Dr. Rachel Levine said during an online media call.

Moreover, though the state is "strongly recommending" school districts follow its guidance — according to which 59 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including Lancaster ought to shift to fully online instruction — the choice remains up to them.

"It is a local decision," Levine said.

Levine spoke shortly after the Department of Health issued its weekly update regarding Pennsylvania's Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard.

It shows "substantial community transmission" of Covid-19 — above 100 new cases weekly per 100,000 population — in all but eight counties. In Lancaster County, the rate jumped from 142.6 to 203.8. Pennsylvania's rate is almost the same, at 204.7.

The state says schools in areas with substantial transmission should use fully remote instruction.

The state's test positivity rate is now 9.6%. Anything above 5% is considered worrisome. (Lancaster's is 9.1%)

Levine urged Pennsylvanians to wear masks, wash their hands, practice social distancing and avoid gatherings with anyone outside their immediate household.

The secretary also urged greater compliance with contact tracing efforts. Fewer and fewer people are providing the information that tracers need to map contagion: "That's a real challenge for us," Levine said.

While various Lancaster County districts have closed individual schools or campuses in response to Covid-19 cases, so far none has instituted a district-wide moratorium on in-person learning.

In Montgomery County, on the other hand, the board of public health ordered all schools to shift to remote learning from Nov. 23 through Dec. 6, over the opposition of many parents.

Levine said the state supports the Montgomery County action, but again emphasized: "Local communities make the decisions."

The secretary was then asked: Hasn't the course of the pandemic shown that patchwork measures that differ from one locality to another are ineffective?

"Of course, it is useful if different counties communicate and collaborate," Levine said.

By the numbers: Covid-19 in Lancaster County

  • New cases (Monday, Nov. 16): 217
  • 7-day incidence: 203.8 cases per 100,000 pop.
  • Test positivity: 9.1%
  • Inpatients:
    • Lancaster General Hospital: 63
    • WellSpan Ephrata Hospital: 17

(Sources: Pa. Dept. of Health; hospital dashboards)

Tim Stuhldreher