Berks County backed down from the record second omicron surge positivity rate from a week ago in the latest weekend report of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard.
While that was a bit of good news, another surge record was nearly hit this week: Hospital admissions in a week at 35.
The positivity rate for the most recent week was 18.9%, down from 20.6% the prior week.
Berks still maintains its status as a low-risk county for COVID, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Early Warning dashboard shows Berks down by 13 cases from the previous week with a new-case rate of 110 per 100,000 population, which was the smallest of dips.
Pennsylvania overall was a minus 1,409 cases, 122 new cases per 100,000 and 17.0% positivity. Both of the two metrics were down.
It’s unclear how often the CDC revises county guidance, though there are subtle changes each week in the color-coded map.
For example, adjoining Chester and Montgomery counties have had lower case rates and positivity rates for weeks but remain moderate risk.
Chester has a case rate of 92 per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 15.3%, with Montgomery at 92 and 14.2%. Delaware County remains a moderate risk, too, at 103 and 12.1%.
Adjoining low-risk Lancaster County has Berks-like numbers: 110 cases per 100,000 and 18.2% positivity.
Adjoining Lebanon County was dropped to low risk from moderate but still posted these numbers: 153 cases per 100,000 and 20.3% positivity.
The county most resembling Berks in population and its distribution is York. Both have a centrally located city that thins to suburbs and rural areas, though the Berks urban core is far more populated.
Last week, York had a case rate of 179 per 100,000 and 21% positivity for its moderate risk designation. This week, it’s low risk at 154 and 20.1%
COVID-19 vaccinations in Berks County continued at a low rate that has been common since February.
The past week’s statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health:
• 320: Residents getting “fully vaccinated” in the past week for a total of 252,056 over the entire 20-month episode of inoculation opportunities.
• 437: Residents getting either their first booster or a third full dose for the immunocompromised in the past week, for a total of 120,699. That was among the larger totals in the past few months.
• 497: Residents getting either a second booster or a fourth full dose for the immunocompromised in the past week, for a total of 25,313.
The county’s population is 429,000, according to the 2020 census. No one who dies of any cause is purged from the vaccination rolls.
Other COVID statistics for Berks from the CDC:
• 35: Hospital admissions in the past week, second highest in the surge to 37. It follows the midweek report of the most patients hospitalized at one time for the surge: 44.
• 2,734: Tests recorded in the past week, down slightly from the second omicron surge high a week earlier.
Case levels are two- to three-times higher in Berks than at the same time in the previous pandemic summers of 2020 and 2021.
Pennsylvania overall is averaging 213 COVID hospital admissions in the past week, top week in the surge, and has recorded 96 deaths in the past week, according to the CDC.
By the weekend, the CDC COVID statistics are more up to date than the midweek state health department update.
Pennsylvania is no longer updating cases, hospitalizations and deaths based on vaccination status.
The number of deaths in the state are down since the midweek report, suggesting the late week saw fewer deaths.
Similarly, the number of new cases statewide in the weekend CDC report appear to be trending down more sharply, which has been the national trend for several weeks.
BA.5 has become the most dominant strain of COVID since its parent, the original omicron, ran rampant through the U.S. population at the beginning of 2022, according to the CDC.
The highly contagious strain is responsible for nearly 90% of all cases in the country, and roughly the same in the mid-Atlantic, according to CDC information.
BA.5 hit in earnest about five weeks ago and pushed up the national seven-day case average to 129,889 on July 16.
Since then, the case numbers have been sliding and the downward trend is gaining momentum, with the latest figure Saturday of 93,731, about 30% off the peak.
The CDC this month ditched some of the isolation protocols and ditched the 6-foot distancing guideline.
Pennsylvania remains better off in terms of risk factors than most states east of the Mississippi River.
Many states south and west of the Keystone State are nearly blanketed in the brown shading, which designates high-risk on the CDC map. Delaware, with three counties, is entirely high risk.
New Jersey has improved in the past week, with half the counties going back to moderate risk from high risk.
New York and New England are almost entirely green, or low risk, like Berks.
Health officials are concerned that an accurate picture of the spread isn’t available due to widespread at-home testing and no testing.
Free testing site
The state health department encourages residents to drop in to the COVID community-based testing sites operated in partnership with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, including the Berks site in Bern Township.
AMI is offering three forms of free testing: point-of-care tests where tests are performed and results are analyzed on-site; the distribution of at-home antigen testing; and continued administration of the nasal passage swab PCR testing.
The Bern Township site is at 2561 Bernville Road.
The site is expected to be open at least until Sept. 4, running 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Officials said the Do Your Part Berks website remains a good source of information: https://www.doyourpartberks.com.
Source: Berkshire mont
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