Val Arkoosh

Montgomery County Board of Commissioners' Chairwoman Dr. Valerie Arkoosh participates in a meeting.

EAGLEVILLE — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt life in Montgomery County, officials are noticing that cases are still rising.

“What we’re seeing right now is just one week to the next, a steady increase in the number of cases, and it’s just been consistently going up for the last several weeks. We absolutely can do better than this,” Montgomery County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Dr. Valerie Arkoosh said.

Arkoosh noted the county is experiencing between 45 and 50 cases each day, with a 3.17 percent positivity rate.

“I would really like to see our positivity under 3 percent. I think that’s a sign that we really do have very substantial viral suppression,” she said during a Sept. 9 virtual press conference.

Arkoosh, along with Vice Chairman Ken Lawrence Jr. and other county health and safety officials, participated in the weekly briefing that was streamed live on Facebook.

There were 52 new COVID-19 cases, along with the death of a 56-year-old man living in a long-term care facility, reported as of Wednesday, according to Arkoosh.

Of those who tested positive, 30 were female and 22 were male, Arkoosh said. They ranged in age from 10-to-84 years old and hailed from 28 municipalities, Arkoosh said.

These new figures bring the totals to 11,270 cases and 829 deaths since March 7, according to the Montgomery County COVID-19 resources webpage.

Of the 829 deaths, there were 443 females and 386 males who were 36-to-104 years old, according to Arkoosh. She added the self-reported racial breakdown was as follows: 18 Asian, three Asian Indian, three Asian Korean, 103 African-American or Black, 326 white, and information on the remaining 376 patients were not known.

Among the sick, in Montgomery County, 48 people are hospitalized for COVID-19, and 12.5 percent, or six individuals, require a ventilator, according to Arkoosh.

While cases increased across Montgomery County, a third round of testing at the county’s correctional facility netted only negative results, according to Arkoosh. She said 937 individuals, which included inmates, staff and local health care providers, were tested on Sept. 3 and Sept. 4.

She added that “any inmate or staff member who previously tested negative” received a new test.

“Our team there has been working incredibly hard as they have been from the beginning of this pandemic to keep every inmate safe, and after we had that small outbreak that began in the early part of August, we completely reexamined all the procedures, all the ways that people were traveling through the facility,” Arkoosh said.

While personnel evaluated “safety protocols,” Arkoosh acknowledged that the results could contain “false positives.” Stringent cleaning and distancing guidelines are expected to continue.

“It’s a pretty small percentage, probably no more than 5 or 6 percent, so it’s possible that there’s some false negatives in the group, so they aren’t relaxed in anything that they’re doing,” she said.

Arkoosh doubled down on her efforts to relay the importance of testing for COVID-19.

“The more we are able to test our community -- whether you have symptoms or not — the more we will know about what is happening across the county, and be able to quickly suppress any outbreaks,” she said.

There are six outdoor sites where those living or working in Montgomery County can make an appointment to get tested at no cost. Each location has a capacity to conduct 50 tests per day, which comes to 300 tests per week across the county. Testing is available at the following locations:

  • Ardmore: Testing is available from 4-6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 12-2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 114 W. Lancaster Ave.
  • Green Lane: Testing is available from 4-6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 12-2 p.m on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the intersection of Deep Creek and Snyder roads.
  • Lansdale: Testing is available from 4-6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 12-2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thusdays at 421 W. Main St.
  • Norristown: Testing is available from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as 3-5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Delaware Valley Community Health Center at the Norristown Regional Health Center, located at 1401 Dekalb St.
  • Pottstown: Testing is available from 12-2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as 4-6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, located at 364 King St.
  • Willow Grove: Testing is available from 12-2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 4-6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the First Baptist Church of Crestmont, located at 1678 Fairview Ave.

Those interested in making an appointment can call 610-970-2937 on the desired day or visit www.montcopa.org/COVID-19, and click the “county testing information,” according to county officials. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Spanish-speaking operators can also assist as well as translation resources for other languages.

As classes resume in schools across the county’s 22 school districts in both virtual and hybrid settings, Arkoosh stressed the importance of adhering to guidelines and following necessary protocols to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We all just have to be mindful that this virus is all over the county, and if parents want their kids to get back to school or back to the playing field we have got to get these numbers down,” she said.

As for higher educational facilities in Montgomery County, there are less than 10 reported COVID-19 cases across the area’s roughly 20 colleges and universities, according to Arkoosh. “They all had very solid plans in place and they really do seem to be following that,” she said.

However, she acknowledged that cases coming from nearby larger institutions such as St. Joseph's and Villanova universities would be reported in Philadelphia and Delaware counties, respectively.

Arkoosh took a moment during the press briefing to speak directly to her constituents and others participating. She reminded area residents of the importance of following health and safety practices as people may be asymptomatic.

She underscored the importance of area residents to wear a mask, stay six feet apart, keep their hands clean and away from their face, and collaborate with contact tracers if they receive a call.

“That’s why I have to urge everyone who’s listening that any one of us can be completely without symptoms but be carrying the virus and be contagious,” Arkoosh said. “So we all just have to heed these rules and these common-sense guidelines to keep everybody safe.”

@rachelravina on Twitter

Rachel Ravina is a journalist covering news and lifestyle features in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. She grew up in Blue Bell and graduated from Penn State. She's also a news enthusiast who is passionate about covering topics people want to read.

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