EDITORIAL: Yorkers must work together to turn the numbers around

York Dispatch Editorial Board
Principal Michael Snedden welcomes students to York Suburban Middle School as they return for the first time in six months following the COVID-19 shutdown, Wednesday, August 19, 2020. Sixth and ninth grade students started a day earlier than the rest of the district due to moving up to bigger schools.
John A. Pavoncello photo

York County's numbers are going the wrong way.

Those of us who look at the statistics on COVID-19 cases in the county every day have had that sense for a while. That's why reporter Logan Hullinger ran the numbers this week.

He found that the instinct was right: York County is seeing an increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19. And August is setting a record.

In March, the county saw an average of five new cases each day. April had 19 new cases on average every day. May and June showed a bit of relief, with 12 and 17 new cases on average. July took the average up to 24. 

And then came August, when so far we've seen an average of 37 new cases each day.

Another number to look at is the deaths linked to COVID-19. Since the first York County death attributed to the disease on April 1, 110 people in the county have died.

But again, those numbers are trending up. We saw nine deaths in April, 15 in May, 22 in June. July spiked at 38 deaths, and by Thursday there had been 24 deaths in August, which means August, with an average of 1.2 deaths per day, will end with an equal number of deaths as we saw in July, with 1.22 per day.

"We never really got to the level of transmission rates where we said, ‘Gosh, we turned the corner on it,'" said Dr. Matt Howie, medical director of the York City Health Bureau. "Instead of having it under control, it was a stalemate for a period of time. Now it’s flipping."

What's more, York County is seeing the numbers rise while the rest of the state has seen numbers level out and begin to fall. After a high of 2,058 new cases on April 8, Pennsylvania saw the curve drop in June, when there were several days with less than 400 new cases and even more with less than 500 cases. The curve moved up again in July, with a spike of 1,183 new cases on July 23 and another of 1,041 on Aug. 12, but generally it's moving down.

But that's not the case in York County. And there's no specific event to tie it to.

"It would be particularly community spread," Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said when asked about the growth in York County cases.

And why would that be? Just take a look around.

Inside stores, if people are wearing masks, they're often not covering the nose, or even worse, the mask is pulled down to cover only the chin. People are gathering at houses, taking off their masks inside the York County Judicial Center, or playing sports with no regard to social distancing. People who wear masks in public are sometimes harassed for their efforts to protect others.

Communities are clamoring for schools to reopen with in-person instruction and for fall sports to begin. College students are returning to campuses, and there are sure to be parties to follow.

This is the time when York County needs to wise up and listen to what the experts have been saying for months. The key to stopping the spread of the virus is to contain it. Since we still don't have widespread, fast testing available in this country, we all have to do our parts.

Stay home if you can. Stay six feet away from people where it's possible. Wear a mask, not to protect yourself from others, but to protect them from you, because none of us know if we've been exposed. And wear your mask properly, it needs to cover the nose and the mouth to do any good.

 Above all, recognize COVID-19 for what it is: a disease that none of us are immune to, one that has killed more than 170,000 Americans and left many more with lasting effects, and one that we have responded to badly. We can turn the numbers around, but only if we work together as a community to do it.