Pennsylvania health secretary links closing bars with opening schools

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The show will go on said Pennsylvania’s health secretary when asked if students will attend classes in almost a month.

Dr. Rachel Levine conceded she’s taking the optimistic view. “Our goal right now is that schools will open in-person,” she said during Thursday’s press conference.

But for kids to be in class in August, patrons must avoid bars in July, Levine reasons — defending the Wolf administration’s latest restrictions on restaurants and drinking establishments.

“It’s critical to drive down the case counts now, in terms of new cases, in order to prepare for schools to reopen,” Levine said. “If we don’t do that now, that would put (schools reopening) in jeopardy.”

Nearly a thousand protesters who rallied on the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday insist, however, the Wolf administration mandates are too severe and the Covid-19 situation — not too dire. Michael Daino was an organizer of the rally.

“The death rate is down,” Daino argued forcefully. He tried to make the case that Wolf’s mitigation efforts are overblown. “Nobody ever talks about that. The death rate is down.”

So let’s talk about death rates.

As of Thursday, the commonwealth’s coronavirus death rate is 55 per 100,000. That ranks Pennsylvania, the sixth most populous state, 11th in the nation. PA’s death rate is much lower than neighboring New Jersey (177) and New York (167). It’s similar to Maryland (56) and Delaware (54), although much higher than West Virginia (6) and Ohio (28).

“We look at the total number of deaths, the deaths per day, and where all those are,” Levine said. “We’re watching that data daily and very, very closely.”

But the health department does not include death rates in its daily release of coronavirus statistics. Levine says it is a less important number than case counts and percent positivity. Those numbers continue to tick up and that’s why, Levine says, the state is clamping down.

She argues it’s important to spot the trends early and react quickly because the spread is exponential and can expand like a brush fire.

“It’s a thousand new cases, then its 2,000, then it’s 4,000 and then it’s 8,000 and then you’re Florida,” Levine said. “We are not gonna become Florida, I can guarantee you.”

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