COVID-19 spread slows to a crawl in York County schools

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch

The rate of new COVID-19 cases in York County schools — like the rest of the region — is lower than it has ever been, with just nine cases recorded across 16 districts on Friday.

This week, local schools added just 74 cases — the first time this school year that weekly cases fell below 100. It is also less than half of last week's total, which broke the previous record for lowest cases recorded in one week. 

The drop off is a stark contrast to just a few weeks ago, when cases in schools were higher than they had ever been before due to the omicron variant. During its peak, local schools recorded more than 400 cases in a single day, and nearly 1,300 cases the same week. 

Despite the slowing trends, York County schools already more than tripled last school year's total cases. Since the fall semester began, local schools have recorded 9,629 COVID-19 cases, and will likely surpass 10,000 cases before the end of the school year. 

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The low transmission rates in schools is reflected throughout all of York County.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the county has recorded 117,449 cases and 1,440 deaths in total over the course of the pandemic.

The state did not update its latest COVID-19 data as of Friday afternoon. 

York County hospitals had 60 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday. Of those, 13 were in the ICU, and 13 were on ventilators, according to state data. 

In response to the declining infections nationwide, the Biden Administration is expected to significantly reduce federal mask-wearing guidelines, according to an Associated Press report

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday will announce a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings, shifting from looking at COVID-19 case counts to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community. Under current guidelines, masks are recommended for people residing in communities of substantial or high transmission — roughly 95% of U.S. counties, according to the latest data.

The new metrics will still consider caseloads, but also take into account hospitalizations and local hospital capacity. Under the new guidelines, the vast majority of Americans will no longer live in areas where indoor masking in public is recommended, based on current data.

“We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer. Our hospitals need to be able to take care of people with heart attacks and strokes. Our emergency departments can’t be so overwhelmed that patients with emergent issues have to wait in line,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing last week.

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Local cases: York County has the highest daily cases per capita among its neighboring counties, tied with Cumberland County with 17 daily cases per 100,000 people, according to The New York Times. 

However, the county's rate of spread has been steadily declining, at a percentage on par with its neighbors:

  • York County: 68% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • Lancaster County: 72% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • Adams County: 69% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • Cumberland County: 63% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • Dauphin County: 69% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • Philadelphia: 59% decrease in cases over the last 14 days
  • New York City: 54% decrease in cases over the last 14 days

Pennsylvania has recorded 2,751,352 COVID-19 cases and 43,069 deaths so far during the pandemic, according to the state Department of Health.