Allegheny County, Pa. reports near-record number of infections, border counties brace for returning restrictions

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Pittsburgh and the rest of Allegheny County reported a near-record number of new coronavirus infections Wednesday as border counties, which are dealing with their own surges, braced for the possibility that state health officials will reimpose pandemic restrictions in an effort to contain the spread.

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 230 additional people tested positive for the virus between June 23 and July 5. Allegheny has been struggling with a spike in infections as residents patronize eating and drinking establishments and head to out-of-state virus hotspots, prompting health officials in the county of 1.2 million to impose restrictions on restaurants and bars, shutter a casino and limit gatherings.

Infections are also rising precipitously in border counties like Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland, and Pennsylvania's health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, has signaled that mitigation measures are on the way, according to local officials who spoke with her.

"They told us an order was coming today," Leslie Osche, GOP chairperson of the Butler County Board of Commissioners, said Wednesday. "We nave no authority to close anything, nor would we, but that would be the expectation, an order will come today of some sort."

An email was sent to the state Health Department seeking comment.

Butler and Washington are among the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit, filed in May and still pending, that challenged the constitutionality of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's statewide shutdown of businesses deemed "non-life-sustaining." Wolf has since lifted many restrictions, and courts have consistently rejected challenges to his power to order businesses to close during the pandemic.

In other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania on Wednesday:


The state Health Department reported 25 new deaths from COVID-19, raising the statewide toll to 6,812.

There were 849 additional confirmed virus infections across Pennsylvania, driven in large part by the 230-case increase in Allegheny County and 90 additional confirmed infections in Philadelphia, health officials said. More than 92,000 people have tested positive for the virus or are considered probable virus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state's confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
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