On the heels of two post-Christmas weeks of increasing COVID-19 numbers, Bucks County’s new infections dropped by 22 percent last week. The sharp decrease caused the county’s seven-day average of new cases to fall to its lowest rate since before Thanksgiving.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 2,117 new COVID cases were reported in Bucks County from Jan. 10-16. That was 593 fewer new cases than the week before, when the county had posted a 12 percent increase in cases.
The rolling seven-day average through Saturday was 299 per day – the lowest since Nov. 22, when it also stood at 299 per day.
The county’s positivity rate for new cases also continued to drop, falling to 12.6 percent last week, down from 14.7 percent the previous week. A total of 36,295 COVID cases have been confirmed in the county since the onset of the pandemic.
“Our numbers are definitely improving as the post-holiday surge has calmed down,” said Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Health Department. “However, there are still 10 times as many cases as there were over the summer. Let’s continue to be smart and safe while doing the things we need to do.”
Thirty Bucks County residents infected with COVID were reported last week to have died, pushing the pandemic death total in the county to 970. At least six of the 30 who died were residents of long-term care facilities, and all but two were age 65 or older.
A total of 165 patients with COVID are hospitalized in Bucks County, 24 of them on ventilators. Hospital capacity for treating them and other patients remains ample, with 28 percent of adult ICU beds and 30 percent of adult medical surgical beds available.
The county is continuing to offer free COVID testing at three Bucks County Community College sites seven days a week through Jan. 31. The testing sites, offered through a partnership with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, have a capacity of testing up to 350 persons per day at each site, with results expected within 38 to 72 hours.
Vaccinations are NOT being administered at the testing sites.
The county did launch a limited, appointment-only vaccination clinic last week for EMS workers and healthcare providers who are not affiliated with hospitals and are unable to obtain vaccines elsewhere. More than 1,500 doses were administered at the clinic from Tuesday through Friday.
Countywide, 15,960 partial vaccinations have been administered – the state’s fifth-highest county total – and 3,431 full vaccinations, also fifth-most in the state.
Statewide, 393,557 partial vaccinations and 63,790 full vaccinations have been administered outside of Philadelphia, which has its own reporting system. Medical facilities in Bucks County and across the state continue to receive doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as Pennsylvania remains in the 1A phase of the vaccine rollout. This phase is focused exclusively on vaccinating healthcare providers, long-term care residents and staff, and EMS workers.
The next phase, 1B, is expected to begin sometime in February. In anticipation of expanding the list of eligible vaccine recipients, Bucks County last week posted an online sign-up link for those who are eligible for phases 1A, 1B and 1C who wish to pre-register. Pre-registrations opened Friday morning for qualifying individuals and businesses on the county’s Coronavirus Vaccine Information page.
Those who pre-register will receive an email from the Bucks County Health Department with further information and instructions. Updates and notifications, including vaccination opportunities, will be sent when the state and county move into 1B.
The amount of vaccine being sent to each county continues to be limited and reserved for Phase 1A recipients. The county health department is working to secure additional vaccine for mass clinics and staffing to help prepare for Phase 1B.
Currently, 1B is designed to include people at least 75 years old, people living and working in congregate care settings not covered in 1A, first responders, corrections officers, food and agriculture workers, postal workers, manufacturing employees, teachers and other education workers, clergy, public transit employees and some types of caregivers.
The age ceiling for 1B, however, is expected to be lowered soon. Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said last week she intends to adopt new federal recommendations that people age 65 and older be eligible for the 1B phase.
Assuming that change does take place, Bucks County will be able to move anyone 65 and older who already has pre-registered for 1C into the updated 1B group. There is no need to pre-register again.