Though the number of nursing home cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in Cumberland County, positive cases and testing among the general population remains uneven across the county and region.
The state Department of Health did not update its ZIP code-level data Thursday with its daily update of state and county numbers, but so far in Cumberland County the two highest concentrations of COVID-19 are locations that feature two long-term facilities known to have outbreaks of the disease.
Shippensburg Health Care Center likely has the majority of the 92 cases reported Wednesday in the 17257 ZIP code, while the Gardens at West Shore is also likely to make up most of the 82 cases in the 17011 ZIP code.
Though the Department of Health does not name the facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks or provide information on how many cases are at each facility, the county currently has 160 total residents and 38 staff members at longterm care facilities with the disease, an increase of 12 residents and one staff member from the day before.
The department, however, has added a fourth facility with at least one COVID-19 case, but the identity and location of the facility is not publicly known.
With 198 cases in nursing facilities to account for — two of which would have been from the staff members at Claremont Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Middlesex Township — it appears that the majority of the cases in the Shippensburg and Camp Hill areas are not in the general population.
According to the department's ZIP code data, the largest numbers outside those two areas are in the Mechanicsburg area. The 17050 ZIP code covering parts of Silver Spring and Hampden townships has 43 positive cases, and the 17055 ZIP code covering Mechanicsburg Borough and Upper Allen Township has 33 positive cases.
While the number of positives is higher, each of those areas also has reported more testing overall. About 19.7% of all tests in the 17050 ZIP code are positive, compared to 15% of tests in 17055.
Those numbers are only slightly higher than the 13.4% of positive tests in the 17070 ZIP code in New Cumberland where there are 20 positive cases, 13.27% of tests being positive in the 17019 ZIP code in Dillsburg where there are 13 positive cases, and 10.5% of tests being positive in the 17015 Carlisle area ZIP code where there are 11 positive cases and 94 negative tests.
Carlisle Borough's ZIP code of 17013 has the smallest percentage of tests being positive (7%) in areas that have reported more than five cases. Though that ZIP code has 28 positive cases, it has also reported 168 negatives.
Though total tests may not be as high, there are some parts of the county that are listed as having fewer than four positives — fewer than what the department is able to track. Those areas are 17007 in Boiling Springs, 17065 in Mount Holly Springs, 17324 in Gardners and 17240 in Newburg.
But while only half of the county's current 343 COVID-19 cases involve the general population, Cumberland County also has fewer tests overall compared to other counties of its size in the region.
Franklin County's cases have steadily been growing in the last week, but it's total is at 284 positive confirmed and probable cases. Though Franklin's COVID-19 cases are still less than Cumberland County, its total testing is much higher. Franklin County also reports having 2,813 negative tests, compared to 1,449 negative tests in Cumberland County, nearly double the local number.
The availability of testing may be of particular concern when it comes to nursing homes.
Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine on Thursday said they are offering testing to symptomatic patients only. However, Levine said they will test those with mild symptoms if they are at a long-term care facility.
"That's certainly a priority for the Department of Health," Levine said.
Though the department does not offer testing to asymptomatic residents or staff at long-term care facilities, she said the department is making frequent calls to such homes through their staff and contractor ECRI to keep tabs on them, even those that have not yet reported a case of COVID-19.
Levine said the department is also encouraging everyone with symptoms to get tested for the disease. That's a change since March when the department asked residents with less severe symptoms to stay home and avoid getting tested, both to prevent the spread of the disease and because testing at that time was not yet widely available.
Levine on Thursday said she is confident that the state has sufficient testing through the state Exton laboratory, hospitals and health systems, commercial labs and private entities, such as Rite Aid, to offer it to anyone with symptoms.
There is still a question of how mass testing will work to track the coronavirus as regions reopen, but Levine said a plan is forthcoming about mass testing and contact tracing.
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Email Naomi Creason at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason