County COVID-19 Update: Contact Tracing and Cases By Zone
Two latest cases in 60s, reside in rural Erie County
Kathy Dahlkemper's daily public health press briefing came earlier than usual today, without any news of unusual spikes in COVID-19 cases. Positive tests for the novel coronavirus continue at a slow trickle in Erie County, contrary to patterns elsewhere in Pennsylvania and throughout the country. Two more individuals, both in their 60s, were confirmed to have COVID-19 this morning, bringing the county total to 37 (an increase of 18 from last week). However, unique today's report was information on where those individuals dwell within the county.
A new map released on the Erie County Department of Health website displays confirmed COVID-19 cases by "zones," which follow the same boundaries as those used by first responders. Here is how the cases are distributed throughout the county:
- Zone 1 (City of Erie): 14
- Zone 2 (Millcreek Township): 11
- Zone 3 (Northeast Erie County): 5
- Zone 4 (Southeast Erie County): 3
- Zone 5 (West Erie County): 4
The two new cases were located in the predominantly rural Zones 4 and 5. Dahlkemper touted that as proof that "no one is immune. This is a sneaky virus, and we don't know a lot about it. There's concern that it is getting out that far."
Asked why this more "granular" reporting became available today after she'd expressed apprehension about it earlier week, she responded that the larger total of cases finally justified it in a way that made sense. Previously, she and those in the health department worried that low (or absent) numbers in a specific region would lull those residents into a false sense of security. At this time, there are no plans for demographic reporting, as a data set of 37 individuals isn't statistically significant enough to extrapolate many conclusions from, Dahlkemper explained.
Instead, she reemphasized dedicating department resources to research of more immediate consequence. Contract tracing, she said, is labor-intensive but also effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19. The comprehensive process involves conducting interviews with positive cases, investigating everyone they may have come in contact with during the prior two weeks, then getting those individuals to sign quarantine documents. In being blessed with its own health department, Erie County can carry out its own contact tracing whereas others cannot (and must use state resources).
Dahlkemper confirmed that some of the earliest positives have made full recoveries and return to abiding by the familiar public health protocols everyone else should be following — frequent handwashing, social distancing, minimal face touching, and wearing a mask in public. "It's a cool thing to wear a mask these days," she said, thanking all of the "superheroes" out there who are continuing to stay home and preventing the spread. "You are truly saving lives."