DOH: Prevention, Diagnosis, Treatment and Response are Keys to Decreasing New Cases of HIV

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine today highlighted the importance of routine HIV testing for Pennsylvanians who are sexually active, as nearly 40 percent of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who do not know they have the virus, and emphasized treatment as a prevention tool to decrease the prevalence of HIV.

“Early detection and treatment of HIV can control the virus and make it undetectable, leading to a person living a long, healthy life,” Dr. Levine said. “The latest science shows that people living with HIV who take HIV medication as prescribed, and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, have no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner. We encourage all Pennsylvanians to know the facts about HIV so they can effectively decrease the stigma surrounding this virus and ultimately reduce the number of new HIV cases in the state.”

There is no cure for HIV, which is why it is so important to get tested for the virus. It is recommended that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. HIV attacks the body’s immune system so it can no longer fight off infections. If left untreated, a person can develop other serious infections or infection-related cancers. These infections can lead a person to develop AIDS, the most severe and last phase of HIV infection. Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive about three years.

For individuals who do not have HIV but may be at high risk for acquiring it, there is a once-daily HIV prevention medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. Anyone can get a free and confidential HIV screening at any health department-supported testing site.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America. The initiative aims to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by 90 percent by 2030. Ending the HIV Epidemic leverages critical scientific advances in HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and outbreak response by coordinating the highly successful programs, resources, and infrastructure of many HHS agencies and offices and providing a targeted infusion of new resources and support to the jurisdictions most heavily impacted.

For more information on getting tested for HIV, visit the Department of Health’s website at www.health.pa.gov or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

DOH Asks Pennsylvanians for Feedback on State Health Assessment, One Week Left to Comment

Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine today reminded residents that there is one week left to comment on the department’s State Health Assessment (SHA), which was created based on the health of Pennsylvanians and will help improve overall health for everyone.

“The opportunity to live a healthy life is a fundamental human right, which is why it is essential that we work to help everyone achieve their healthiest lives,” Dr. Levine said. “The SHA is a comprehensive health assessment that looks at the current health status of Pennsylvanians and is developed using a number of different processes, including community engagement. I encourage every resident to take the time to review our assessment so we can work to develop recommendations regarding public health policy, processes and interventions.”

This state health assessment reviews a broad range of indicators of health, conditions to describe health throughout Pennsylvania, and the factors that contribute to disparate health outcomes. This report explores social determinants of health, health equity, and eight health themes, including:

  • Access to Care;
  • Substance Use;
  • Chronic Diseases;
  • Mental Health;
  • Maternal and Infant Health;
  • Injury and Violence;
  • Immunizations and Infectious Diseases; and
  • Environmental Health.

The assessment is the first in a series of steps to improve the health of Pennsylvanians. This report is intended to be used to create discussion, promote ongoing and expanded data analysis, support local health improvement interventions, and inform the next Healthy Pennsylvania Partnership State Health Improvement Plan.

The State Health Improvement Plan will use these findings to collaboratively select priority health issues and develop intervention strategies to create change in Pennsylvania.

“No single person or organization can address all the health and health equity concerns described in this assessment,” Dr. Levine said. “However, working with partners and addressing equitable and upstream needs, will lead to necessary change.”

Pennsylvania residents are encouraged review this new assessment and provide feedback through this linked survey by December 7, 2020.

For any questions about the assessment, please contact RA-SHA@pa.govFor more information on health equity or social determinants of health, visit the Department of Health’s website at www.health.pa.gov or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Wolf Administration Expands Testing Sites Across the Commonwealth

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf and Director of Testing and Contact Tracing Michael Huff today announced the extension of the Department of Health’s contract with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI) to provide COVID-19 testing in five regions across Pennsylvania to help contain local spread of COVID-19.

“Every day COVID continues to spread in the commonwealth, every day our numbers continue to rise, and that puts our health care system and our health care workers at greater risk,” Gov. Wolf said. “To help stop the spread, we are announcing a new testing strategy in the commonwealth, one that will help improve access to testing for Pennsylvanians in every region of the state.”

Over the next 12 weeks, five strike teams will provide regional testing for 61 counties. The six counties not receiving testing from AMI have county health departments providing other means of COVID-19 testing.

“We have seen a rapid increase of positive case counts reaching record-high levels, which gives us significant cause for concern,” Michael Huff said. “AMI has been a significant partner to the Department of Health by providing pop-up testing in counties with a high positivity-rate and other factors contributing to outbreaks of COVID-19 across the commonwealth.

“These testing sites are open to anyone who feels they need a test. It is important that even people with no symptoms who test positive isolate to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

The initial contract with AMI had two strike teams to provide testing in two different counties simultaneously. AMI deployed to:

  • Centre county, testing 2,492 patients total;
  • Columbia county, testing 1,068 patients total;
  • Indiana county, testing 566 patients total;
  • Berks county, testing 3,354 patients total;
  • Northumberland county, testing 639 patients total;
  • Lebanon county, testing 908 patients total;
  • Huntingdon county, testing 1,396 patients total;
  • Westmoreland county, testing 916 patients total;
  • Blair county, testing 3,820 patients total;
  • Bradford county, testing 1,513 patients total; and
  • Lackawanna county, testing 1,856 patients total.

The department decided to deploy testing based on the total number of confirmed cases per 100,000 people in a county in the past 14 days as well as where outbreaks were happening, county population, and other metrics. The initial AMI testing contract and the extension were funded by the ELC Enhancing Detection grant.

The Department of Health believes that increased testing will assist in determining the prevalence of the virus and assist the counties in moving forward. Counties of concern, identified as those with percent positives above 5 percent, can be found on the Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard. Each county is being monitored as the state continues to examine all available data.

Beginning Wednesday, December 2, drive-thru and indoor walk-in testing clinics will be held to contain the recent rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in the following five counties:

  • Bedford;
  • Mifflin;
  • Tioga; and
  • Northampton.

Testing will be available daily from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM starting Wednesday, December 2 through Sunday, December 6.

Beginning Friday, December 4, drive-thru and indoor walk-in testing clinics will be held in Butler county. Testing will be available daily from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM through Tuesday, December 8.

The testing site addresses are:

  • Butler County:  Michelle Krill Field, 100 Pullman Park Pl., Butler, PA, 16001;
  • Bedford County:  Bedford High School parking lot, 330 West John St., Bedford, PA, 15522;
  • Mifflin County:  Pennsylvania State Fire Academy, 1150 Riverside Drive, Lewistown, PA, 17044;
  • Tioga County:  North Penn Mansfield High School, 73 W. Wellsboro St., Mansfield, PA, 16933; and
  • Northampton County:  William Penn Highway Park & Ride, Emrick Blvd., Easton, PA, 18045.

Up to 450 patients can be tested per day at each location. Mid-nasal passage swab PCR tests will be performed. Testing is on a first-come, first-serve basis and is completely free to all patients. Patients must be ages three and older and are not required to show symptoms of COVID-19 in order to be tested. No appointment is necessary. Patients are encouraged to bring a photo-ID or insurance card. Registration will also be completed on-site. The turnaround time for testing results is two to seven days after testing.

Individuals who are tested should self-quarantine while they await test results. Individuals who live with other people should self-quarantine in a private room and use a private bathroom if possible. Others living in the home with the individual awaiting test results should also stay at home. The department has additional instructions for individuals waiting for a COVID-19 test result. Individuals who test positive will receive a phone call from AMI while individuals who test negative will receive a secured-PDF emailed to them from AMI.

For the latest information for individuals, families, businesses and schools, visit “Responding to COVID-19” on pa.gov.

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
  • Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.

Revenue Department Releases November 2020 Collections

Harrisburg, PA — Pennsylvania collected $2.3 billion in General Fund revenue in November, Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell reported today. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $14.8 billion.

November collection data does not include a comparison against anticipated amounts because monthly revenue estimates for the fiscal year are not yet finalized. As part of the state budget recently signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, an amendment to the Fiscal Code requires the Department of Revenue to revise revenue estimates for the 2020-21 Fiscal Year. Work to publish those monthly estimates is ongoing.

Below is an overview of November revenue collections:

Sales tax receipts totaled $984.3 million in November.

Personal income tax (PIT) revenue in November was $683.9 million.

Corporation tax revenue was $140.9 million for November.

General Fund revenue figures for November included $94.6 million in inheritance tax and $55.1 million in realty transfer tax.

Other General Fund revenue, including cigarette, malt beverage, liquor and gaming taxes totaled $176.8 million for the month.

Non-tax revenue totaled $203.0 million for the month.

In addition to the General Fund collections, the Motor License Fund received $257.7 million for the month, which includes the commonly known gas and diesel taxes, as well as other license, fine and fee revenues.

Wolf Admin. Reminds Pennsylvanians Experiencing Anxiety, Loneliness, Stress During the Holiday Season That They Are Not Alone, Encourages Active Duty Military and Veterans Needing Help to Use Support Resources and Networks

Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration today shared resources for people struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, and other stressors this holiday season. The holidays can be both a time of joy and a period of stress for people, and people who are more likely to experience mental health challenges like active duty military, veterans and their loved ones may feel them more acutely because of the pandemic.

“This year has challenged all of us in many ways, and for individuals who are more likely to or currently deal with a mental health challenge like post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, the collective challenges we face may be felt more acutely,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller. “The holiday season and our family traditions will look different this year, but we do not have to be cut off from our support networks entirely. No matter what you are feeling this year, please know that you do not have to endure it alone. Talk to your loved ones, talk to your support network, and don’t be afraid to make a call to resources that exist to help.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 1 in 4 active duty military personnel report some kind of mental health challenge, and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder can continue throughout a veteran’s life even after retiring from service. Military spouses and children can also experience anxiety and depression due to the stress of being separated from their loved ones. Because of the additional strain created by COVID-19, the Wolf Administration is encouraging all active duty military, veterans, and their loved ones to pay special mind to their mental health and not endure anything they are feeling alone.

“The holiday season can be a stressful time for veterans who are already a vulnerable population due to their challenging service to our nation,” said Rick Hamp, special assistant to the deputy adjutant general for Veterans Affairs with the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Throw in the complications of COVID-19 and it is extremely important that Pennsylvania’s nearly 800,000 veterans are aware that they have access to programs and services that can help them with their physical and emotional needs. This collaboration among state agencies is an ideal way to raise awareness about the many state resources available to Pennsylvania’s veterans, and helps to improve or even save lives.”

Mental Health

People who experience feelings of anxiety or depression may experience more distress during the holiday season than during normal times. Given the challenges we are all currently facing, all Pennsylvanians should take extra care to be mindful of their mental health and tend to their overall health and wellness during this time. Check in with yourself, be honest to yourself and your support network about how you are feeling, and if you need someone to talk to or a little extra support, help is available.

DHS’ mental health support & referral helpline, Persevere PA, is available 24/7, including on holidays, and is a free resource staffed by skilled and compassionate counselors available to counsel Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions. The helpline counselors refer callers to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs. Pennsylvanians can contact Persevere PA at 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.

If you or someone you love is in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available by calling 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is staffed 24/7 by trained counselors who can offer free, confidential support. Spanish speakers who need immediate assistance can call 1-888-628-9454. Help can also be accessed through the Crisis Text Line by texting “PA” to 741-741.

The United States Departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services also operate a Veterans Crisis Line in conjunction with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This free, confidential resource is available for veterans, active duty service members, active duty and reserve National Guard members, and family and friends of service members or veterans. The Veterans Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or through text at 838255. A chat option is also available online at www.veteranscrisisline.net.

Substance Use Disorder

The holidays may also be difficult for individuals with a substance use disorder or people in recovery, especially if they become stressed by changes to their schedule or daily routine, are not able to see their support network in-person, have strained or no relationships with family members, or are faced with potential triggers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most dangerous time of the year for substance use and alcohol-related deaths is around the holiday months.

“It is important for all of us to remember that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate the lives of our loved ones, the opioid epidemic hasn’t ended,” said Department of Drug and Alcohol (DDAP) Secretary Jen Smith. “We are still losing far too many Pennsylvanians in drug-related fatalities, and even more unfortunate is that many of these Pennsylvanians are veterans. I cannot stress enough that if you need substance use disorder services, help is available. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help to lead a happy, healthy life.”

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs also maintains a toll-free helpline that connects callers looking for treatment options for themselves or a loved one to resources in their community. You can reach the Get Help Now helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The helpline is available 24/7 – including on holidays. An anonymous chat service offering the same information to individuals who may not be comfortable speaking on the phone is also available at www.ddap.pa.gov.

Naloxone is still available to all Pennsylvanians through Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine’s standing order, and carrying this on-hand at all times can be a life-saving action. The Wolf Administration encourages all Pennsylvanians to take advantage of the standing order to obtain Naloxone over the holidays. Learn more about how to obtain naloxone at www.pa.gov/opioids.

Congressman Keller announces childhood development grant for Bradford, Tioga counties

Washington, D.C. — Congressman Fred Keller (R-PA) today announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded a grant to Bradford-Tioga Head Start.

A grant in the amount of $1,638,062 will be administered by HHS to support childhood education and development programs in northcentral Pennsylvania.

On the awarding of the grant, Congressman Fred Keller made the following statement:

“The programs offered by Head Start give local children essential opportunities to learn and grow while also supporting area families in need. Over the past 35 years, Bradford-Tioga Head Start has helped improve thousands of children’s lives right here in PA-12.

“I thank HHS for its continued support of these critical programs and applaud the outstanding work that the people of Bradford-Tioga Head Start do to educate our children, strengthen our families and better our community.”

December 1, 2020 – Department of Health Report

Forty three (43) new cases added Tuesday in Lycoming County now at 2,243 cases, no new deaths, 38 total deaths, with 19,210 negatives according to DOH report.

Department of Health Provides Update on COVID-19:

4,631 Patients Hospitalized and 970 Patients in the Intensive Care Unit

5,676 Additional Positive Cases of COVID-19

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed as of 12:00 a.m., December 1, that there were 5,676 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 367,140.

There are 4,631 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 970 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. Most of the patients hospitalized are ages 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of number of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 3,200 since the end of September.

Statewide percent positivity for the week of November 20 – November 26 stood at 11.7%.

The most accurate daily data is available on the website, with archived data also available.

The number of tests administered within the last 7 days between November 24 and November 30 is 375,888 with 32,853 positive cases. There were 38,752 test results reported to the department through 10 p.m., November 30.

As of 11:59 p.m. Monday, November 30, there were 180 new deaths reported for a total of 10,563 deaths attributed to COVID-19. County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Mask-wearing is required in all businesses and whenever leaving home. Consistent mask-wearing is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

There are 17,770 individuals who have a positive viral antigen test and are considered probable cases and 642 individuals who have a positive serology test and either COVID-19 symptoms or a high-risk exposure.

There are 2,836,445 individuals who have tested negative to date. Of those who have tested positive to date the age breakdown is as follows:

  • Approximately 1% are ages 0-4;
  • Nearly 3% are ages 5-12;
  • Approximately 5% are ages 13-18;
  • Approximately 12% are ages 19-24;
  • Nearly 37% are ages 25-49;
  • Nearly 22% are ages 50-64; and
  • Nearly 20% are ages 65 or older.

The department has seen significant increases in the number of COVID-19 cases among younger age groups, particularly 19 to 24-year-olds. An alert was sent to healthcare providers about the changing COVID-19 case demographics. Increases among 19 to 24-year-olds from April through the end of November are available below:

  • NC – Approximately 7 percent of cases in April to approximately 14 percent of cases in November;
  • SE – Nearly 5 percent of cases in April to nearly 11 percent of cases in November;
  • NE – 6 percent of cases in April to nearly 13 percent of cases in November;
  • SW – Approximately 5 percent of cases in April to nearly 10 percent of cases in November;
  • NW – Nearly 7 percent of cases in April to approximately 10 percent of cases in November; and
  • SC – Approximately 7 percent of cases in April to approximately 8 percent of cases in November.

In nursing and personal care homes, there are 35,946 resident cases of COVID-19, and 6,752 cases among employees, for a total of 42,698 at 1,279 distinct facilities in 65 counties. Out of our total deaths, 6,507 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. A county breakdown can be found here.

Approximately 14,655 of our total cases are among health care workers.
 

Statewide – The Wolf Administration has – since noon, Nov. 30:

 

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
  • Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.

All Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to sign up for AlertPA, a text notification system for health, weather, and other important alerts like COVID-19 updates from commonwealth agencies. Residents can sign up online at www.ready.pa.gov/BeInformed/Signup-For-Alerts.

DOH Highlights Resources, Shares Ways to Support Pennsylvanians Living with Epilepsy

Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine today highlighted resources for those diagnosed with epilepsy and shared ways to help someone cope with this medical condition, and aid someone experiencing a seizure.

“Epilepsy is a disorder of the nervous system that can cause unpredictable seizures and other health problems – it can affect anyone, at any age, at any time. Most people with epilepsy lead normal and happy lives, but can suffer from seizures without warning,” Dr. Levine said. “In Pennsylvania, more than 133,000 people are living with active seizures and 1 to 2 percent of all Pennsylvanians are affected by epilepsy. We are pleased to bring awareness to and share ways we can support our fellow Pennsylvanians who live with this medical condition.”

Seizures are the result of sudden, brief changes in the brain’s electrical balance.  When there are excess electrical charges in the brain, seizures occur. Seizures can alter awareness, physical movements, and consciousness or actions. They typically last a few seconds to a few minutes. However, seizures can last much longer or repeat without the individual able to recover in between.

Often seizures first develop during the pre-school and elementary school years. As this condition affects more than 3.4 million people across the country, nearly half a million of them are children.

While epilepsy is generally a chronic and/or lifelong condition, many people with epilepsy reduce the number of seizures they experience through the use of medications, special diets, or surgery. Some people find that certain things trigger their seizures, such as stress, anxiety, hormonal changes, or not getting enough sleep.

Seizures can happen anywhere at any time. If an individual begins to have a seizure in your presence, you can prevent or minimize injury that might occur as a result of the seizure by:

  • Staying calm and keeping track of the time;
  • Moving anything out of the way that might injure the person;
  • Gently rolling the person onto his or her side;
  • Putting something soft under his or her head;
  • Loosening anything tight around his or her neck;
  • Not putting anything into the person’s mouth;
  • Not trying to hold the person down or stop them from shaking; and
  • Checking for epilepsy or seizure disorder identification.

If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, you should call for help. Remember, if you see someone having a seizure, you can help.  You can’t do anything to stop the seizure, but you may be able to prevent and/or minimize injury that might occur as a result of the seizure.

In central and western Pennsylvania, call the Epilepsy Association of Western and Central Pennsylvania at 800-361-5885. In eastern Pennsylvania, call the Epilepsy Foundation of Eastern Pennsylvania at 215-629-5003.

For more information on Epilepsy, please visit the department’s website.

Gov. Wolf Signs HB 770, Vetoes HB 21 and HB 1737

Harrisburg, Pa. – Today, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law House Bill 770, which updates requirements regarding the education, training and registration of pharmacy technicians and permits pharmacies and pharmacists in Pennsylvania to order and perform certain laboratory examinations and procedures.

The governor also vetoed House bills 21 and 1737.

House Bill 21 would have created a new license for home inspectors regulated by the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers, separate and apart from the existing regulatory framework provided by Act 114 of 2000.

View the governor’s HB 21 veto message.

House Bill 1737 would have undermined COVID-19 mitigation efforts and endangered the public health by enacting overly broad immunity protections from civil liability due to the pandemic.

View the governor’s HB 1737 veto message.

DOH Nov. 15-21 Update on COVID-19 Investigations, Contact Tracing, Monitoring Efforts: Pennsylvanians Urged to “Answer the Call” and Download the COVID App

Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Health today shared its weekly update on Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing data and encouraged Pennsylvanians to download the COVID Alert PA app to aid in contact tracing efforts.

“As we complete case investigations, we see that residents are having more and more close contacts to report,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We need to emphasize the importance of limiting your travels and gatherings and to continue to be alert as this virus remains a threat across our communities. Pennsylvanians are encouraged to wash their hands frequently, practice social distancing, wear a mask, avoid gatherings, and download the COVID Alert PA app on their phones to be notified if they came into contact with someone who later tested positive.”

Contact tracing is the process of identifying, notifying, and monitoring anyone who came in close contact with an individual who has COVID-19 while that individual was infectious. The contact tracing process is not possible without a case investigation by a public health professional. Case investigators make the initial call to those with positive COVID-19 test results spending 30 to 60 minutes asking questions to ensure all potential close contacts are identified.

Between Sunday, November 15 and Saturday, November 21, there were 44,525 COVID-19 cases statewide, an increase of 9,806 cases compared to the previous seven-day period. Case investigations are being prioritized to address those cases that present the highest likelihood of leading to an outbreak. Of the 44,525 newly reported cases, 17 percent of all cases had a case investigation started within 24 hours of receiving the positive report. Public health professionals will continue calling to complete the case investigation after the 24-hour period. An additional 4 percent of all cases had a case investigation started within 48 hours.

Although public health professionals may call to start the case investigation, not all cases to obtain additional information are successful. The Department of Health leaves voicemails, texts, and sends a letter to the home requesting a return call. There were 5,788 people, or 13 percent of cases, in this reported week that were successfully contacted by a public health professional statewide.

After the initial case investigation is complete, contact tracing begins. Within the same time period of November 15 to November 21, there were 1,647 contact tracing staff working with local and county health entities, partner organizations and the Regional Response Health Collaboration Program within the Department of Human Services as well as volunteers from Co-County Wellness in Berks County and Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. These staff monitored 11,328 contacts who were identified during the case investigations.

Currently, all of the allotted 1,000 people have been hired through Insight Global. Some of these contact tracers have been promoted to perform case investigations to meet the immediate needs of increased caseloads. There are 40 supervisors, 12 regional field managers and coordinators, and 10 care coordinators who will help to refer Pennsylvanians to services during quarantine across the commonwealth.

Since the implementation of the Contact Tracing Management System in early October through November 21 in those areas of the state where Pennsylvania Department of Health is responsible for contact tracing, there have been:

  • 44,000 contacts have been processed for areas where PA DOH has jurisdiction;
  • 33,900 people, or 76 percent of the total contacts identified, have been effectively reached to communicate their quarantine status and offer ongoing symptom monitoring;
  • 8,500 people, or about 19 percent of the total contacts, were not reached; and
  • 1,100 were still in the process of being contacted.

On September 22, the department launched COVID Alert PA, a free mobile app that uses Bluetooth technology to let a person know that they have been exposed to COVID-19 without compromising the identity or location of either the person using the app, or of the person to whom they may have been exposed. There have been over 622,000 downloads thus far.

In addition to the traditional case investigations and contact tracing process, there have been 326 cases that confirmed their positivity and uploaded their random ID’s through the app. These uploads generated 144 exposure alerts to persons who have downloaded the app on their phones and who were in close contact (six feet for 15 minutes or more) to the case. Of those who received the alerts, 21 individuals requested a call back for further assistance from a trained contact tracer.

As the contact tracing program expands, the Department of Health continues to work in partnership with over 150 organizations, in addition to the county and municipal health departments, through regional partnerships to help gather and answer questions, identify problems and find solutions to improve contact tracing efforts within the region. Each regional partnership has met at least once, and includes public health staff, health providers, academic institutions, community organizations, and other stakeholders interested in helping to coordinate and engage around contact tracing efforts.

Organizations and entities interested in partnering in these efforts should reach out to RA-DHCONTACTTRACING@pa.gov.

You can find more information on the state’s contact tracing efforts at the Department of Health’s website here.

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
  • Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.