While McKean County is listed by the state health department as having only one positive case of COVID-19, a state official said Thursday that they know more cases are present.
“We think the accuracy of our testing is very good, but there is community spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, the state’s health commissioner. “We know the true number of cases are far above our case count. We are taking that into consideration.”
There has been only limited testing in the area, and officials with Upper Allegheny Health System have said they believe there are more cases than tests have confirmed.
An erroneous report Thursday of 26 cases and one death in Cameron County had some locals worried, but Cameron County Coroner Ted Walters confirmed to The Era Thursday night that the information was inaccurate.
“No, we have one case and no deaths,” Walters said. He admits to considerable alarm when his wife told him of the state health department’s error. “If you look right below us on the list (of counties with positive cases) you’ll see Carbon County. It’s them, not us.”
On Thursday, Cameron and McKean counties each had one case, and Potter County had two. Levine said the rural areas aren’t expected to be as hard hit by the virus, as the population density is less than in areas like Philadelphia.
“A lesson here is the importance of social distancing,” she said, reiterating what has become her mantra at daily briefings: “Stay calm, stay home and stay safe.”
When asked if the Department of Health would break down the positive cases per municipality rather than county, Levine said no.
“I know that people would like to know, but we’re asking people to stay home,” she said. So it doesn’t matter what municipality someone is in if everyone is following the rules. “That individual will be at home. The best thing you can do is please stay home.”
She answered several questions about an anticipated surge in the number of positive cases statewide, explaining that it isn’t possible to know exactly when the surge may hit.
“As Dr. Fauci has said the virus will determine the timetable,” Levine said, referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is the nation’s expert on coronavirus.
“We’re working with the hospitals, the health systems to prepare for that surge,” Levine said. “We need to try to prevent the surge from overwhelming our healthcare systems.”
And that, again, is where the importance of following the stay-at-home order comes into play, she added.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health said there are 1,211 additional positive cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday morning, bringing the statewide total to 7,016 in 62 counties.
The department also reported 16 new deaths among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 90. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital.
“The continued rise in cases combined with our increasing deaths from COVID-19 reflects the seriousness of this situation,” Levine said. “We need everyone to listen to the orders in place and to stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We know that these prolonged mitigation effects have been difficult for everyone, but it is essential that everyone follows these orders and does not go out unless they absolutely must.”