Pennsylvania Reports Nearly 500 Coronavirus Deaths in August, Down 6.7% from July

Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine answering questions from the press during her visit to Mi
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state of Pennsylvania reported nearly 500 deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus in the month of August, according to PA Department of Health data.

The state has maintained a public “dashboard” of COVID-19 data, complete with charts of daily cases and deaths. However, those numbers differ slightly from daily reports given in a separate “archives” page — which posts an updated total death count, drawn from the Department’s Vital Records Program as of 11:59 PM on the previous date and broken down by county.

According to the department’s archives, Pennsylvania reported 483 deaths total in July, comparing totaled figures from August 3 (the end of last month fell on a Friday) and September 1 — an average of 16.65 per day. According to the Department of Health, no date of death is given on these reports, so it is unclear how many occurred in earlier months and how many occurred in August. The CDC cautions that its own count of death certificates can come between one to eight weeks after a death occurs.

This month’s total is a 6.75% decrease from the 518 deaths reported in July, according to these same archives. That month’s total was a more than 50% drop from June’s tally of 1,114.

Nineteen counties did not record any new deaths in August. Fifteen of those counties had previously recorded deaths: Bradford, Carbon, Clinton, Columbia, Elk, Fulton, Greene, Jefferson, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Pike, Snyder, Warren, and Wyoming. Four of those counties have not yet reported any deaths: Cameron, Forest, Potter, and Sullivan.

Twenty-five counties reported three or fewer deaths in July: Adams (3), Armstrong (3), Bedford (1), Butler (3), Cambria (2), Centre (1), Clarion (1), Clearfield (1), Crawford (1), Cumberland (2), Fayette (2), Franklin (1), Huntingdon (1), Lackawanna (2), Lebanon (3), Lycoming (3), McKean (1), Montour (2), Schuylkill (2), Somerset (1), Susquehanna (2), Tioga (1), Venango (1), Wayne (2), and Westmoreland (3). Two of those counties — Clearfield and Venango — reported their first coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Twelve counties reported four to ten deaths: Beaver (7), Blair (8), Bucks (7), Chester (9), Dauphin (8), Indiana (4), Lawrence (6), Lehigh (8), Luzerne (5), Mercer (4), Monroe (4), and Union (4).

Five counties reported 11 to 20 deaths: Berks (17), Erie (19), Montgomery (13), Northampton (11), and Washington (16).

And six counties reported more than 20 deaths: Allegheny (80), Delaware (37), Lancaster (25), Northumberland (25), Philadelphia (87), and York (35). Of these six, Philadelphia maintains the highest total deaths (1,786), followed by Montgomery (863), Delaware (724), and Bucks (586). No other counties have yet reached 500 total deaths since the state began taking these records in March.

For comparison, the most recent public PA death statistics — from the year 2018 — marks the state’s top causes of death as heart disease (32,713 deaths for the year, an average of 2,726 per month), cancer/malignant neoplasms (27,995 deaths for the year, an average of 2,332 per month), and nontransport accidents (7,207 for the year, an average of 600 per month). [These data were provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The Department specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations, or conclusions.]

These figures reveal a key metric in the ongoing debate over the state’s lockdown measures. As testing became more widely available, confirmed cases began to rise in mid-June but have slowly trended downward since the last week of July. The number of PA hospitalizations bottomed out in mid-July, slowly rose until the end of the month, then dropped quickly — reportedly due to a change in the federal government’s reporting process.

Governor Tom Wolf extended the state’s disaster declaration for another 90 days on Tuesday. He faces strong opposition from the state’s Republican lawmakers, as reported by PennLive:

The governor’s extension of the disaster declaration drew a harsh response from House GOP spokesman Jason Gottesman particularly in light of the governor’s plea on Tuesday to the Legislature to quickly pass legislation to protect Pennsylvanians from eviction from their homes now that his eviction moratorium has expired.

“Governor Wolf has ignored the law and acted by fiat for the last six months. It is curious now that he is searching for the limits of his authority as an excuse to pass the buck to the General Assembly over the crisis he created for both property owners and renters,” Gottesman said in a statement.

“Instead of telling the General Assembly how to do its job and what bills to pass, Governor Wolf should instead work with us to reopen Pennsylvania’s economy, get those struggling to pay their bills back to work safely, and restore some sense of normalcy to the people of the Commonwealth.”

At the end of June, a public opinion poll showed Wolf’s approval rating at 49%, down from 68% in April. The governor took flak from critics earlier that month for joining a Black Lives Matter protest after calling business owners “cowardly” and “selfish” for defying his lockdown orders.


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