Adams County Holds Its Personal Towards COVID-19, Making it Safer for Colleges to Open. – Gettysburg Information

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Adams County Holds Its Own Against COVID-19, Making it Safer for Schools to Open. – Gettysburg Connection

The major statistics used to track the rate and severity of COVID-19 infections currently paint a relatively positive picture for Adams County, suggesting the state’s mitigation plans are effective and that it is probably safe to open public schools next month.

Although the number of COVID cases in the state and the county have been increasing from their low points in May and June, they have not climbed back to where they were at their peaks in April.

The pattern of a noticeable but modest increase in new cases since about July 1 is clear for the state:

Pennsylvania State Data (PA Department of Health)

In Adams, weekly new cases are variable, but also do not show a current spike:

Adams County Data (PA Department of Health/Gettysburg News)

COVID-19 cases are spread out across the county’s zip codes:

SOURCE: American Mapping/Gettysburg News

Although cases are currently increasing, the number of deaths is down. The pattern is very clear in Pennsylvania: 

Pennsylvania State Data (PA Department of Health)

Adams has had 15 deaths attributed to the virus, nine of which have been in congregate care facilities:

Adams County Data (PA Department of Health)

The number of cases and deaths are not the only important metric to help us judge the severity of the pandemic. Rather, experts say we need to also look at the case positivity rate — the percentage of total tests conducted that are positive.

High case positivity rates usually mean that only the sickest people in the population are being tested, and so the true case count is underestimated.

When the positivity rate is lower and most of the tests come back negative, it’s an indicator that there are enough tests available and that most cases are being counted.

Positivity rates currently vary greatly across the U.S. from a high of over 20 percent in Arizona to a low of 2 percent in Massachusetts.  According to the Department of Health’s early warning dashboard, Pennsylvania’s overall positivity rate is 4.4 percent, lower than the five percent threshold established by public health experts as necessary to suppress the spread of the virus in a region.

According to the Department of Health, in Adams the case positivity rate is 3.1 percent, based on about 7,600 total tests since the pandemic began.

These numbers have important implications for Adams County’s six school districts as they determine whether and how they should reopen.

Scientists and educators have called for schools to reopen for in-person classes, particularly for young children who do not generally learn well in online courses.

With a positivity rate of only 3.1 percent, opening schools in Adams is not as dangerous as it would be if the rate were higher.  Opening schools could spread the virus among children, but because the positivity rate is low it should be possible to monitor individual cases in the schools and isolate those students.

Governor Wolf has mandated masking and social distancing in public schools and this practice should help prevent problems.


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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg News’s Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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