By John L. Micek
Special to the Pittsburgh Current
Mirroring trends in other states, adults aged 19 to 49 now make up an increasing share of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 cases, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Monday, as she issued an urgent warning for residents to remain vigilant and to wear a mask when they’re out in public.
“If you’re in a situation where you think you need a mask, then the answer is “Yes,” you need a mask,” Levine said during a news conference. “If you’re uncomfortable with how close people are, such as in a restaurant, make the choice to leave. If you’re in a store where people are failing to observe mask orders, then leave. As much as our effort [to contain the virus] are about laws and mandates and requirements, they’re mostly about your choices.”
As of midday Monday, health officials had confirmed 328 cases of COVID-19 in all 67 counties, for a total of 95,742 cases statewide. Officials confirmed seven, new fatalities, bringing the statewide death count to 6,911 people statewide.
Speaking to journalists Monday, Levine said the state had seen the recurrence of a trend prevalent during the early days of the pandemic where young people were the first to get sick, often seriously, which required hospitalization.
Where Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older once constituted the bulk of cases, that percentage has now evened out, with adults aged 19-49 comprising 45 percent of the state’s caseload, Levine said.
While the virus rages in other states, especially in such states as Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and elsewhere, Levine said Pennsylvania has no immediate plans to return to the color-coded reopening zones that have since allowed residents in all 67 counties to return to work.
But “our actions will continue to impact whether we can stay at work,” Levine said. “Clearly, we are seeing cases across the U.S. skyrocket. Other states are seeing an even more dramatic surge that we were able to avoid.
Levine credited what she called the “targeted actions” taken by health officials in Allegheny County, which has seen an increase in case counts. Last week, acting in response, Allegheny County put a two-week halt on indoor dining.
The county reported 71 new cases on Monday and no new deaths, according to WESA-FM journalist Chris Potter. But the county “also only reported getting 741 test results in all. Positives date back to tests taken from July 1-12, so a week-and-a-half wait for some,” Potter noted on Twitter on Monday.
And while those targeted measures are important, Levine continued to stress Monday that it’s up to state residents to act as their own enforcement agents to help halt the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19.
“What’s most important for Pennsylvanians to know right now, as they go about their routines is to make the important choices to lower risk,” she said. ” … Go for a hike, but take your mask, just like you take your sunscreen. Think about your family, your community, and make those choices, those smart, daily habits.”
John L. Micek is the editor of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star where this story first appeared.