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No county COVID-19 deaths in last week

Lycoming County has seen zero deaths in the last week to 10 days according to Charles E. Kiessling Jr., Lycoming County coroner. Though that information is a positive, the latest news is that there are 15 new positive cases in the county.

“What we’re seeing locally is that case detections have gone up over the last week, which also included the long holiday weekend. Our testing data, and that of our partners at the county and state health departments, indicates that these cases are largely linked to younger people who contracted the virus either while traveling or while socializing without masks or proper distancing,” Rutul Dalal, MD, UPMC infectious diseases medical director, said.

“We still have to be careful as best we can,” Kiessling said. “I don’t think we need to panic over these numbers.”

“We should be cautiously optimistic,” Dalal added. “We’ve come a long way since the spring and we’ve made great progress controlling the spread in our region. What we need to remember is that even though it’s summer, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. We need to keep up the work we’ve already done.”

He continued by saying that locals need to continue to abide by public health guidance including masking, social distancing and isolating and getting tested if you have symptoms or were exposed to the virus.

According to Dan Glunk, MD, UPMC chief quality officer, UPMC has been conducting contact tracing since the very early stages of the pandemic.

“We implemented the testing as an additional service to the community so that we could monitor our local population, support those who test positive through their recovery, and help prevent the spread in our region,” he said.

It is being done by contacting the patient after confirming positive, walking them through the steps of the 14-day quarantine period and trying to narrow down how the patient was infected.

The state Department of Health has created a platform for coroners and other professionals to log into and look at updated numbers of positive cases and deaths, though there are still discrepancies between the numbers.

“The state is reporting not on where they died ,but their residence. That adds another layer of confusion,” Kiessling said.

He said there has always been a “lag” in numbers because as a coroner, he is getting the death numbers at the time of death rather than having to file certificates, the death registry and then confirmation like the state would have to, but now that there is a system, he can keep track and look at all of the updates in terms of numbers.

Kiessling also added that testing as far as he knows has increased across the multitude of platforms including ramped up testing at all local hospitals, testing at other local healthcare facilities like nursing homes and testing outside of Walmart.

“If you do more testing, you’re going to see more positives,” he said. “You’re also going to see more negatives. Nursing homes are pretty reliable and have called me and reported them (numbers and deaths) to us.”

Over the course of the last four months, Jersey Shore’s Manor Care facility has had a total of 77 COVID-19 positive patients and 19 COVID-19 positive employees. There are currently no active COVID-19 positive cases there according to Julie Beckert, AVP marketing communications at HCR Manor Care.

All of the employees fully recovered from the virus, as a majority of the patients did, though there were some losses along the way.

All of the patients were treated accordingly: in a separate area from those who tested negative, those that were healthier and were treated by staff who were wearing all of the protective equipment needed including gowns, masks, gloves and eye shields.

“We also have done significant employee training on how to use PPE safety and infection control and cleaning processes,” Beckert said. “We are looking at what the CDC, CMS and others will be recommending going forward and our internal clinical and facility experts are evaluating our centers to see how we can continue to provide quality skilled nursing and rehabilitation care and engagement in a safe environment following the protocols set for our industry.”

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