PHILADELPHIA — Coronavirus cases in Philadelphia are surging, following the trend seen across the state and nation. Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley floated a number of ideas as to what’s causing the spread, suggesting coronavirus fatigue and complacency could be factors.
During a news conference Tuesday, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the city is seeing the highest weekly averages we’ve seen since mid May.
Farley reported 268 new cases Tuesday, bringing the total case count since the start of the pandemic to 40,704. Additionally, 23 new probable cases were identified through rapid antigen tests.
The weekend ending Oct. 17 had ab average of 184 cases per day, but that figure is likely to increase as labs report more data from the past week. The week ending Oct. 10 averaged 184 cases per day.
Case counts are higher in part because of increased testing. Farley reported an average of about 4,000 test per day in the past week.
He said about 2,600 tests were administered each day in mid July and about 1,5000 in May.
However, he said the percent of positive tests is increasing. Last week, the city averaged a 4.8 percent positive rate. As delayed reports come in, that number will increase, he said. The week before that, the city had a 5.1 percent positivity rate.
The lowest positivity rate was in mid September with 2.8 percent. In mid July, the positive rate 5.5 percent and it peaked in late May at 9.5 percent.
Eight more deaths were reported Tuesday, bringing the city’s death toll to 1,849. Of the 1,849 total deaths, 904 or 49 percent were long-term care facility residents. Farley went on to say that nursing homes and other facilities are seeing increased cases like the rest of the city, state, and country.
Farley said the city is averaging about 15 deaths per week.
The increased spread of the virus is occurring in households, family gatherings, social gatherings, and possibly work places.
“The risk is increasing now maybe because of the cold weather, maybe because of the drier air, maybe because people are indoors more because of the cold weather, or maybe because people are becoming more complacent or all those things combined,” he said. “Whatever though, it does appear that the virus is following the pattern of other respiratory viruses like influenza. These viruses tend to get more common throughout the fall and peak in January or February. If COVID follows that pattern, we’re going to be having a difficult time over the next three to four months.”
Through contact tracing, Farley said 17 percent of cases reported the week of Oct. 11 were working in an office when they were exposed. That figure is up from 7 to 9 percent in September.
He said in one instance, spread occurred between coworkers who ate lunch together and were not wearing masks.
“Any setting indoors when you’re close together not wearing masks is going to be a high risk setting, so work places are something were concerned about now,” he said.
Farley called dining indoors a high risk activity, but said so far the city has not had any clear evidence that restaurants being open has led to increased spread.
When discussing contact tracing and dining, Farley said people who have been contacted report a low percentage of eating out at restaurants during the time they might have been exposed.
“If that percent increases,” he said, “then you will hear about it. And we’ll see if we need to do something different with restaurants.”
This article originally appeared on the Philadelphia Patch