Lab

Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Jared Seiders analyzes a PCR run inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories on Friday, March 6, 2020.

BUCKS COUNTY >> Bucks County’s coronavirus cases reached double digits on Wednesday, March 18 with the announcement of three new positive cases.

The Wolf Administration, meanwhile, confirmed the state’s first COVID-19-related death, an adult from Northampton County who was being treated at a hospital.

And in Montgomery County, which has the most cases (42) of any Pennsylvania county, including eight new positives on Wednesday, officials announced that they are shifting to a “community spread model” and discontinuing most contact tracing efforts.

“We continue to have a very rapidly evolving situation here in Montgomery County,” said Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, at an afternoon briefing. Under the community spread model, she said, “I will no longer be reporting contact tracing or presumed route of exposure for each individual, as I have done on all prior days.

“I want to emphasize that this shift is not unexpected, and is consistent with the progression of a highly communicable disease like COVID-19,” Arkoosh said. She added that with community tracing discontinued, Montgomery County no longer will announce the number of residents being quarantined, which currently stands at 512.

She outlined procedures in which anyone who tests positive must remain isolated for a minimum of seven days, and may be released only if they have not had a fever for 72 hours. Household members must be remain under quarantine for at least seven days after the first person’s isolation release date.

Bucks County’s new cases involve three adults, all with mild symptoms who are confined to their homes.

One lives out of state during the work week and shares a residence there with a person who has tested positive.

The second patient lives in Bucks County but works out of state, while the third is a resident who has not left Bucks County anytime recently, said Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Health Department.

Damsker said the sources of infection for the latter two cases and an elderly person who remains hospitalized are still being investigated. He said he expects to have more information on Thursday.

Damsker said that the new cases here are not surprising, and that he expects to receive them in increasing numbers as private lab testing for coronavirus becomes increasingly available to Bucks County residents. He noted that while Bucks has largely been testing only those with obvious risk factors for the virus, such as foreign travel or documented contact with another infected person, 11 of the 12 cases have involved mild symptoms with home confinement.

Pennsylvania currently has 152 confirmed cases of COVID-19, resulting in one death to date.

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