All three members of the Westmoreland County Board of Commissioners have now tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) after Commissioner Gina Cerilli on Tuesday notified other county officials of her positive test.

Commissioner Doug Chew alerted the county of his positive test result in October, and commissioners chairman Sean Kertes last week announced he had tested positive for the virus.

“As in the past, the County immediately implemented steps to minimize the impact to our workplace and to keep all employees healthy and safe,” according to a county news release. “Commissioner Cerilli is currently following isolation recommendations. Westmoreland County Human Resources department will conduct contact tracing. The county has already implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of the commissioners’ suite and continues to take precautions, including masking and temperature taking at the courthouse.”

The latest coronavirus case in the commissioners’ office comes as Westmoreland County on Tuesday saw more than 500 new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day for the fourth time in less than a week.

Tuesday’s new case total of 542 marked the third highest single-day increase for the county and the seventh time this month the county has added 400 or more cases in a single day.

Westmoreland County has already had more new coronavirus cases in December than it did in the entire month of November.

As of Tuesday’s update to coronavirus case figures on the county website, there had been 5,541 new cases since the start of the December.

There were 4,954 new cases reported in the county throughout the month of November, which more than doubled the total cases that had been reported through the first eight months of the pandemic.

With Tuesday’s update, there have been 14,802 coronavirus cases reported in Westmoreland County since the first cases were reported here in March.

That figure includes 11,400 confirmed cases and 3,402 probable cases as of Tuesday’s update to the state data.

There have been 68,950 negative tests in Westmoreland County.

The county on Tuesday also saw its COVID-19 death total exceed 300, according to state data on the county website. With 10 new deaths reported Tuesday, the county’s coronavirus death total now sits at 304. The Pennsylvania Department of Health continuously adjusts death counts for prior dates as new data is received, meaning the coronavirus deaths reported Tuesday didn’t necessarily occur on the same day.

The first coronavirus deaths for Westmoreland County were reported April 5, according to the state health department.

The Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office on Tuesday increased its listed total of coronavirus deaths for the first time since Dec. 2. With the update, the total climbed from 193 to 242. Of those deaths, 235 were confirmed by testing and another seven are presumed cases based on symptoms. The youngest person to die of COVID-19 in Westmoreland County was 36, according to the coroner’s office, and the oldest 109. The coroner’s COVID-19 death total includes any individual whose death occurred in Westmoreland County, regardless of their county of residence.

Statewide, total coronavirus cases have surpassed half a million. The case total had reached 509,320 as of Tuesday’s update. That figure includes 465,134 confirmed cases in the state and 44,186 probable cases. Throughout Pennsylvania, 12,890 people have died of coronavirus, according to the state health department.

Of the state’s coronavirus deaths, 7,532 are associated with long term care facilities, which have been virus hotspots throughout the pandemic.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there have been 44,591 coronavirus cases among residents and 8,136 cases among staff members at 1,409 long term care facilities throughout the state.

In Westmoreland County, according to the state health department, 45 long term care facilities have accounted for 1,435 positive COVID-19 cases among residents, 166 cases among staff members and 147 coronavirus deaths as of Tuesday’s update.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients continued to rise as of Tuesday’s update.

Statewide, there were 6,295 coronavirus patients hospitalized Tuesday, according to the state health department. Of those patients, 1,264 were in adult intensive care units and 705 were on ventilators.

In Westmoreland County, as of Monday’s update there were 164 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 — up from 157 Monday — with 24 in adult intensive care units and 16 on ventilators according to the state health department. Of the 89 ventilators available in Westmoreland County, according to state data, a total of 27 were in use by COVID and non-COVID patients as of Tuesday’s update.

According to state figures last updated at noon Tuesday, there were 24 adult ICU beds available at Westmoreland County hospitals — 26.7% of total adult ICU beds — 24 medical/surgical beds and 57 airborne isolation beds.

The state years ago established seven regional Health Care Coalitions, or HCCs, as part of its emergency preparedness plan. Westmoreland County is part of the HCC of Southwest PA, or the Southwest region, which also includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset and Washington counties.

The Southwest region had 1,556 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Tuesday’s update. Of those patients, 323 were on adult intensive care units and 201 were on ventilators. Overall, 453 of the region’s 1,129 available ventilators were in use as of the update.

Citing concerns an influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations could stretch health systems thin on staff, Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine on Nov. 23 issued an order directing hospitals to reduce “elective procedures” by half if their region meets at least two of the following criteria:

  • 33% or more of hospitals in the region anticipate staffing shortages in the next week;
  • 50% or more increase in the moving average of COVID-19 admissions in the previous 48 hours;
  • 10% or fewer of the medical and surgical beds in a region are projected to be available in the next 72 hours.

The Southwest region is currently the only HCC in the state that meets the anticipated staffing shortage criteria.

As of Tuesday’s update, 36.1% of hospitals in the Southwest region anticipated staffing shortages.

According to the state’s COVID-19 Reduction of Elective Procedures Dashboard, the Southwest region had experienced a 0.9% decrease in coronavirus hospitalizations over the most recent 48-hour period prior to the site’s update on Monday and 42.2% of medical and surgical beds in the region were projected to be available for patient care in the next 72 hours.

The Southwest region on Monday also saw the first administrations of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine as five UPMC health system employees received doses of the vaccine on Monday. The Pfizer vaccine is the first to be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use. The FDA is still reviewing a second COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Moderna, Inc.

Excela Health spokeswoman Robin Jennings said Excela expects to begin administering immunizations to staff on Friday.

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