Hospitalizations due to the coronavirus saw a slight increase Wednesday, and two new deaths were reported by Butler Memorial Hospital.
According to Wednesday's report by Butler Health System, one inpatient died Tuesday and another died Wednesday.
Butler Memorial Hospital also reported treating 35 hospitalized patients for COVID-19 symptoms, an increase of three from its report Monday. Of the total inpatients, 33 have confirmed cases of the virus, and four are being treated in the intensive care unit.
BHS also reported an uptick at Clarion Hospital, which now has seven inpatients with six of them having tested positive for COVID-19. Clarion Hospital has one patient in intensive care.
The state Department of Health also attributed two new deaths to Butler County in its report Wednesday; however, these may not align with the timing of the hospital's report due to a lag in reporting.
It may be possible that the patient who died Wednesday appears in Thursday's Department of Health report. It is also possible the person who died is a resident of a different county and would then count toward its total, not Butler County's.
According to the Department of Health's report Wednesday, Butler County saw a record high in new confirmed cases with 90 additional cases.
The county's former record of 66 new confirmed cases in a day occurred twice, once on Nov. 2 and again Tuesday.
The data showed that since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,283 county residents tested positive and 48 have died due to COVID-19.
Wednesday's total is the highest addition since the beginning of the pandemic.
Health care professionals at every level continue to advise for the public to take action in combating the spread of COVID-19.
Wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing more than 6 feet from others are commonly advised mitigation tactics.
Reinforcing these sentiments, Allegheny County Department of Health Director Debra Bogen issued a stay-at-home and stop social gatherings public health advisory to all residents of the county.
“For the past few weeks, I've asked people to follow the rules, curtail gatherings and parties, stay home except for essentials and wear masks,” Bogen said. “I'm done asking and, today, I'm telling you that these are things we must all do to bring down the level of spread and keep our community safe.”
As of Wednesday's Pennsylvania Department of Health report, Allegheny County has had 18,680 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of that total, 3,758 have been added in the past two weeks.
Bogen later clarified she issued an advisory, not an order, the latter of which typically carries enforcement possibilities.
“We can do this without an order if everybody cooperates and follows those recommendations. The advisory really is my best public health advice to our community, and I ask you all to follow that as best as you possibly can,” she said.
At the state level, Michael Huff, director of testing and contact tracing for the Department of Health, gave an overview of the state's status in those areas and implored people to continue with mitigation efforts.
“Public health controls are only as effective as the willingness of individuals to carry them out,” Huff said.
According to his latest figures, about 40 percent of Pennsylvanians have been tested at least once for the virus with more than five million tests having been completed.
Huff said the goal currently is to offer testing to anyone who has symptoms while the goal for the future is to be able to enable anyone to receive a test, even those without symptoms.
Huff also addressed concerns of contact tracing, which has been an issue in recent months due to lack of participation. He repeated the plea made by Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine for people to answer the call contact tracers make, which will likely come within 24 hours of receiving a positive test result.
Huff also reiterated that the contact tracing information is fully confidential.
“To protect patient privacy, contacts are only informed that they may have been exposed to a patient with the infection,” he said. “They are not told the identity of the patient who may have exposed them.”
Huff said there is one common scenario the department is trying to resolve. He said even when he receives a call from an unknown number, he sends the call to voice mail.
“We're trying to address that issue, so we can see the Department of Health calling or the County Health Department calling, so that they're more likely to pick up the phone,” Huff said.
But Huff said it is vital that people pick up the phone as testing and contact tracing are the best tools the department has for containing the virus.
“We will exhaust the list of positives until we can be assured the disease is controlled,” he said.