Michael Huff, Director of Testing and Contact Tracing for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, presented an update today on the commonwealth’s COVID-19 testing and contact tracing efforts, emphasizing the need to prioritize case investigations and for those who test positive to participate in contact tracing.
To date, the state has been conducting both PCR and antigen tests. In total, Pennsylvania has conducted 5,498,223 tests, which equates to nearly half the state’s population.
“The increase in testing demonstrates the increased need for case investigation and contact tracing – two key public health activities that occur when a case of COVID-19 is identified,” Huff said. “Given the continued increase in both the number of positive cases and the positivity percentage rate, which stood at 11 percent for the week of Nov. 13 – Nov. 19, the recommendations for prioritization of COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing have been enhanced.”
Huff outlined key case investigation prioritization recommendations from the CDC that were released yesterday and are meant to enhance efforts already initiated by the Department of Health. These include:
- Prioritize case investigation interviews for people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 6 days (based on specimen collection date or symptom onset, if known);
- Prioritize contact tracing efforts on household contacts exposed in past 6 days, and people living, working or visiting congregate living facilities, high density workplaces or other settings (or events) with potential extensive transmission;
- As resources allow, expand case investigation and contact tracing to people outside the household who are at increased risk for serious illness, are part of a cluster, or were exposed within the past six days,
- If more than 14 days have elapsed since the specimen was collected, case investigation should generally not be pursued.
Case investigation and contract tracing remain essential components of the COVID-19 response and are a key strategy to interrupt disease transmission and reduce spread of the virus in a community. With more than 34,000 positive cases reported in the past seven days, contact tracing has become even more critical to identifying those who may have been exposed to the virus by someone who has tested positive.
As cases of COVID-19 are at record levels, Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine yesterday announced new mitigations efforts to help stop the spread of COVIC-19 at this critical time.
Huff reiterated the importance of the mitigation efforts, “As Governor Wolf, Secretary Levine, I and others have said in the past, the COVID-19 situation is fluid, and guidance continues to change over time, even after plans are prepared and adopted. One thing has not changed – citizens of Pennsylvania have individual responsibility to contribute to proper behavior and to adhere to public health guidance to protect themselves and others as well as to help control the spread of COVID-19. Public health controls are only as effective as the willingness of individuals to carry them out.”
Huff also reminded Pennsylvanians to download the free COVID Alert PA app, which is an important tool to join the fight against COVID 19. To date there have been more than 560,000 downloads and more than 42,000 daily check-ins on average.
Business, Work, School, Child Care, and Congregate Settings
- Child care may open, complying with guidance
- Congregate care restrictions in place
- Prison and hospital restrictions determined by individual facilities
- Schools subject to CDC and commonwealth guidance
- Telework must continue where feasible
- Businesses with in-person operations must follow updated business and building safety requirements
- Masks are required in businesses
- All in-person businesses may operate at 75% occupancy, except where noted
- Self-certified restaurants may open at 50% capacity for indoor dining
- On-premises alcohol consumption prohibited unless part of a meal; cocktails-to-go and carryout beverages are allowed
- Serving alcohol for on-site consumption must end at 11 p.m, and all alcoholic beverages must be removed from patrons by midnight
- Personal care services (including hair salons and barbershops) open at 50% occupancy and by appointment only
- Indoor recreation and health and wellness facilities (such as gyms and spas) open at 50% occupancy with appointments strongly encouraged; fitness facilities are directed to prioritize outdoor fitness activities
- All entertainment (such as casinos, theaters, and shopping malls) open at 50% occupancy
- Construction activity may return to full capacity with continued implementation of protocol
- Gathering limits determined using maximum occupancy calculator
- Masks are required in all public spaces
- Unnecessary travel should be limited
The Wolf Administration supports local officials who choose to maintain additional restrictions. The following counties are under additional local guidelines:
There are travel requirements in place across Pennsylvania. Visit the Department of Health’s website for the latest travel guidelines.