Kessinger: County numbers fastest rising in state
Commissioners upset over lack of testing
LOCK HAVEN — “Clinton County now has the fastest rising number of cases in Pennsylvania. It’s been doubling every 5 1/2 days.”
That was the unexpected news delivered by Clinton County Commissioner Miles Kessinger at Thursday morning’s regular meeting of the board.
“We were late getting the virus here and now we’re averaging more than a case every day. If this continues we will not be on the governor’s list of counties that will fall into the yellow phase and will be permitted to begin reopening on May 8,” Kessinger continued.
That list is to be released tomorrow, he said.
The governor is expected to hand pick, county-by-county, those that will be allowed to start reopening next week, Kessinger said. Obviously upset by the news, Kessinger’s voice deepened as he urged residents to wear masks and follow the guidelines like social distancing.
“If this continues, Clinton County will not be on that list tomorrow,” he said.
The commissioners wondered aloud why the sudden increase in Clinton County, which was one of the four final counties to confirm a case and remained with one case for weeks.
One of the reasons cited in a story by Morgan Snook at NorthcentralPa.com is additional testing, Kessinger said.
The commissioners scoffed at that suggestion,
“That would surprise me. I’m not aware of any testing in Clinton County,” commissioner Jeff Snyder said.
“One of my constituents told me he had to go to Wilkes-Barre this week to get a test. That’s completely unacceptable,” Snyder said in disgust.“With this rise, it’s even more important that we have local testing.”
Commissioner Angela Harding, who has often expressed her fear of the virus picking up steam in Clinton County, said: “People have to be diligent. That means masks … wearing masks to protect others. I want nothing more than to our economy started and allow small businesses to reopen.
The doubling rate was calculated for the past week of cases using numbers from state and local health agencies and hospitals, according to Snook.
WHAT IS A DOUBLING RATE AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
“The doubling rate is important because it gives us s sense for how rapidly the virus is spreading. The key principal behind flattening the curve is to decrease the doubling rate of the infections, according to Dr. Caleb Alexander, professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Alexander was quoted in Snook’s article.
The areas that have high doubling rates are the ones that are, or should be, the target of sustained public health outreach and intervention, Alexander said, listing a variety of factors that could be influencing Clinton County’s doubling rate.
“The doubling rate is affected by the amount of social distancing taking place within a county, as well as other population-level interventions, the degree to which there is hand washing, use of face masks … those types of approaches,” Alexander said.
It could also be due to deployment of additional testing in the area, he said.
However, Alexander noted that only about .56 percent of Clinton Couny’s population has been evaluated for coronavirus, according to the state Department of Health data from April 27 and U.S. Census Bureau data.
Another possible reason, Alexander said, is that the virus hit the area later than the rest of the state. Disease trends over time will reveal more information, he said. Looking at the doubling rate over a 14-day period will show a clearer picture, he said.
At 29 positives cases, Clinton County’s case count is still low, Alexander said. “These are small numbers. They’re important and they’re not to be dismissed, but they are relatively small.”