Remember when COVID-19 denier told you the pandemic would “magnificently disappear” after Election Day? Well, the carnival operators were off beam -- so much so, the virulent virus today rages uncontrollably in Bucks and Montgomery counties as well as across the country.
Bucks and Montgomery, in fact, are among 38 counties statewide at a “substantial” level of community spread of the disease, according to the state Health Department. In Bucks, the commissioners have challenged residents to ramp up use of face masks and social distancing measures to fight the deadly disease. In Montgomery, meanwhile, the board of health voted to require all county public and private K-12 schools to move to virtual or remote learning between Nov. 23 and Dec. 6.
In Bucks, new COVID-19 cases jumped 79 percent in early and mid-November, putting the weekly average at a record 118 cases per week. During the final three days of last week, 530 new cases were reported.
“Here we go again, but maybe it’s a little tougher this time,” said Bucks Commissioners Chair Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia. Unlike last spring, when COVID-19 cut a deadly swath through long-term care facilities, “it’s the general public that’s been having trouble” with new infections in recent weeks, she said.
But don’t blame the schools, businesses or restaurants for where the increase is occurring, the Bucks leaders said, rather it’s due to lax behavior by residents who’ve grown pandemic weary when it comes to wearing a mask and avoiding party atmospheres.
“All of us are tired of wearing a mask,” said Commissioner Bob Harvie. “We’re tired of the interruptions to everything we’ve planned. But we need to keep up the wearing the masks and keep following the discipline.”
The action in Montgomery County comes on the advice of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Policy Lab, the county Public Health Office and Commissioner Chair Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, and also applies to special education students and includes the suspension of extracurricular activities and sports during the two weeks.
Said Arkoosh: “We want residents to know that we did not take this decision lightly. We believe this is in the best interest of our K-12 students, teachers and staff.”
In Montgomery County, positive cases continue to mount, now totaling 16,125 since March 6. On Nov. 13, for example, there were 309 new cases, four of them in long-term care facilities, and one death, bringing the total death total to 848.
The spikes are not unique to Bucks and Montgomery counties. The state Health Department reported a record 4,361 new cases and 62 deaths on Nov. 10, the most in one day since June 5. Nationally, COVID-19 hospitalizations hit an all-time high that day, with almost 62,000 coronavirus patients hospitalized.
“We need all Pennsylvanians to take a stand and protect one another,” said Gov. Tom Wolf.
And we need everyone to acknowledge the pandemic will disappear quicker and easier -- and the economy improve -- if we all take personal responsibility like wearing a mask.