The COVID-19 pandemic weakened significantly in September.
The virus took the lives of just 13 county residents during the month, according to the office of County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni. That’s fewer than half the 29 persons who died in August and not even a tenth of the 183 victims who died in April at the height of the pandemic.
As in past months, the virus was unrelenting in attacking the elderly most harshly. All who died in September were in their 80s or 90s. There were no COVID-19 deaths among county residents age 79 and younger.
Since the pandemic began in March, there have been no deaths of children or teenagers.
What Dr. Diamantoni said a month ago remained true in September: “No one young and healthy has died.”
In September, there were 21 days with no deaths, a sharp contrast to mid-April when an average of nine county residents were dying each day.
Hospitalizations down nearly by half
The number of patients treated for COVID-19 at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health and WellSpan Health Ephrata dropped steeply in September. The daily caseload for the two hospitals averaged 16 patients last month, down by nearly half from a caseload of 31 in July.
For the third month in a row, the decline in deaths outpaced the decline in hospital cases, suggesting that local hospitals continue to improve their care of COVID-19 patients and save an increasing percentage of them.
As an important side note, the opening days of October have seen a reversal of the downward trend last month. During the first six days of this month, LGH and Ephrata have averaged 22 patients daily. This may be a short-term upward blip or the start of a new surge. It’s too soon to tell. The numbers are a reminder that it’s also too soon to drop sensible precautions.
New cases (Positive Covid-19 tests)
Lancaster County hospitals, clinics and doctors reported 1,279 positive tests for COVID-19 during September, up slightly from 1,206 in August, according to the state Health Department.
The three ZIP code areas with more than 100 cases were, according to daily Health Department reports tracked by researcher Erica Runkles:
- Lancaster 17602: 286 cases
- Lancaster 17603: 153 cases
- Lancaster 17601: 113 cases
The areas with the next three highest numbers of positive tests were:
- Lititz 17543: 88 cases
- Ephrata 17522: 71 case
- Denver 17517: 46 cases
Four ZIP code areas – Adamstown, Kirkwood, Smoketown and Terre Hill – had no new cases.
On a cases-per-population basis, the Landisville ZIP code area remained the highest area in the county, with 6 cases per 1,000 residents. Lancaster 17602 had 5.5 cases per thousand, Millersville 4 and Denver 3.
To put those numbers in perspective, in all areas of the county under 1% of the population tested positive for COVID-19 in September. And, as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CDC’s top pandemic expert, has stated, about 80% of those who test positive do well without any specific medical treatment. About 20% get seriously ill.
Note 1: This summary of the pandemic in September was delayed six days to include the county coroner’s mortality report for the full month. That office’s results from COVID-19 tests typically are not available for two to five days.