Pennsylvania’s worst month yet for coronavirus cases is drawing to a close.

As of Saturday, the state saw 143,640 new cases of COVID-19 in November alone – more than the previous five months combined.

October had the second-most cases at 49,060. Another 40,920 were recorded in April, in the early days of the pandemic.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

The Lehigh Valley has not been spared the coronavirus’s fall resurgence. November has been the worst month here, as well – 7,803 cases have so far been reported this month between Lehigh and Northampton counties, surpassing April’s previous high of 4,329.

Neither the state nor the Valley have yet matched their springtime numbers of coronavirus-related deaths. Those reports typically lag behind case counts, but the daily toll is climbing again.

So, too, are hospitalizations. As of Saturday, more than 4,200 Pennsylvanians were hospitalized for COVID-19, compared to about 2,800 around the springtime peak. State data shows 914 adults in intensive care units with the virus, with 18% of ICU beds still available.

As case counts continue to rise, the situation is projected to become more serious over the winter into the first quarter of 2021.

The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects Pennsylvania running out of ICU beds in December. The number of overall hospital beds is expected to stay within capacity.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

The institute also projects Pennsylvania to record 20,000 coronavirus-related deaths by March 1, with best- and worst-case scenarios ranging from 17,000 to 34,000 dead. The model shows between 100 and 400 deaths a day depending on what actions are taken.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

Health officials have warned for weeks of the fall resurgence and updated their guidance.

Already this month, Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine have told residents to wear masks indoors when with people from outside their household, and instructed travelers to get a negative COVID-19 test before entering the state or quarantine for two weeks.

More recently, the state put attendance caps on gatherings and events, and instructed schools to file a certification if they intend to continue in-person instruction. A stay-at-home order has not been issued, but officials are encouraging residents leave as little as possible – even issuing a text alert the day before Thanksgiving.

“We have been preparing for a fall resurgence, and now it is here and we need Pennsylvanians to follow the mitigation orders in place,” health department spokesperson Nate Wardle told lehighvalleylive.com on Nov. 20, just before Pennsylvania reported its 300,000th case (it has recorded 50,000 more since then). “This is going to be a difficult winter, but we can help prevent our hospitals from being overrun by taking steps to prevent the spread. By following orders in place, washing our hands, social distancing, wearing a mask, avoiding gatherings, and if sick, staying home, we can work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

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Steve Novak may be reached at snovak@lehighvalleylive.com.



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