Some yellow counties could move to green

State working on those rules

May 22, 2020 Cranberry Local News

The state could see some green.

In a call with media Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf said he was looking forward to a Friday news conference in which he would announce more movement in his color-coded reopening plan. He said all of these decisions will be based on metrics and models the state has been using for months.

“I'll be announcing a whole range of counties moving from red to yellow, and the hope might be to announce some counties moving from yellow to green tomorrow,” Wolf said.

Butler County's status is uncertain.

In her daily COVID-19 briefing, state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the state is still working on metrics that would dictate a county's movement from yellow to green.

“We're working on those metrics, and we will have them very soon,” she said.

Levine was also questioned multiple times by reporters about the recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that would help states in their reopening process. She said she only just received the information this week.

“As we release the metrics to go into the green zone, we're also working on what life in the green zone will look like, especially for businesses, restaurants, etc.,” Levine said.

The CDC released its guidance Wednesday.

“Many have chosen to begin moving gradually and strategically toward resuming civic life,” the federal entity said in a statement. “To help states, tribes, localities, and territories, as well as businesses and community organizations operate as safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC released two new resources to aide in reopening.”

With some eyeing a move to green, Butler County's recent fluctuation in its death toll makes its future less clear.

The number of county deaths has remained at 12 since it was controversially changed from six on Tuesday. The number of deaths had been reported as six from April 21 to May 18.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Health canceled its video briefing, after its daily update to COVID-19 totals came later than usual. The department typically releases reports and updated figures daily at noon. On Wednesday, a news release was sent around 6:30 p.m. acknowledging the updated figures.

“This was an information technology computer problem,” said Levine on Thursday regarding the issues experienced Wednesday.

According to Wednesday evening's update, Butler County added two positive cases of COVID-19 bringing the total to 208. In Thursday's report, which arrived around noon, Butler County's total positive cases rose by one to 209.

Levine was asked during Thursday's briefing why the state changed from reporting the number of deaths that occurred in counties to attributing the deaths to the county of residence of those who died.

“We're not making any change. We have always reported it this way,” Levine said. “We have always reported it in terms of their residence.”

In an email Tuesday to the Butler Eagle, Maggi Mumma, deputy press secretary for the state Department of Health, said the department had completed a transition to a new death data reporting system that came with some key changes.

“The most notable changes will be with nursing home cases. Up until now, the Department of Health was confirming all cases (and) deaths based off ... the individual(s') county of residency. In nursing home cases, their death was counted for their county of residence being the nursing home,” Mumma said. “Now, if a person who resided in a nursing home died from COVID-19, but maintained a residence in another county, their death will be counted in the county of residence listed on the death record — in accordance with CDC guidance.”

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reporting on its website, Butler VA Health Care System has seen eight patients test positive for COVID-19 with three deaths, but the report also shows no active cases as of Thursday.

Paula McCarl, Voluntary Services coordinator, said all positive cases were seen in outpatients.

“Butler VA's Community Living Center (CLC), or nursing home, has conducted two rounds of testing on veteran patients and employees, and all results have been negative for the coronavirus,” McCarl said.

Covid-19 Regional Data

The following numbers on the coronavirus pandemic were compiled from the regular news releases from the state Department of Health figures. Information about COVID-19 cases at the Butler VA Health Care System were gathered from a database hosted on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

Thursday’s COVID-19 statistics:

Butler County

Confirmed cases: 209

Negative tests: 3,248

Deaths: 12

Butler VA

Active cases: 0

Positive cases: 8

Deaths: 3

Pennsylvania

New cases: 980

Total cases: 65,392

New deaths: 102

Total deaths: 4,869

Negative tests: 303,514

Surrounding Counties

Allegheny: 1,718 confirmed cases; 24,958 negative test results; and 148 deaths

Armstrong: 58 confirmed; 1,083 negative; and 2 deaths

Beaver: 539 confirmed; 2,952 negative; and 71 deaths

Clarion: 25 confirmed; 608 negative; and 2 deaths

Lawrence: 73 confirmed; 1,083 negative; and 8 deaths

Mercer: 97 confirmed; 1,257 negative; and 4 deaths

Venango: 8 confirmed and 471 negative

Westmoreland: 434 confirmed; 7,780 negative; and 38 deaths

- The total number of cases includes confirmed and probable cases.

- The total deaths and new deaths include only confirmed deaths, which is a person who tested positive for the virus before their death.

Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger graduated with a degree in journalism in 2015 from Pitt-Johnstown. A business reporter, he also covers Slippery Rock borough, township and school district.