Elk County has been ranked as one of 15 counties with a “substantial level of community transmission” of COVID-19, according to the state health department.

“The departments of Education and Health will speak with school district representatives in these counties to discuss the implications of this level of transmission,” read a statement from the office of Gov. Tom Wolf.

In Johnsonburg Area School District, a second high school student has tested positive, approximately 50 high school students are in quarantine and the high school will be changing to virtual instruction from Oct. 28 to Nov. 3, according to Superintendent Dennis Crotzer. Elementary school students will continue in-person instruction. Fall sports hosted by the district have been canceled.

In Ridgway Area School District, one non-teaching staff member has tested positive. District officials, in contact with the departments of health and education, which said districts are permitted to continue with in-person learning through the week. In-person instruction will continue from Oct. 26 to 30, at which time the situation will be reevaluated. All after-school and extracurricular activities have been canceled during that time.

Parents are permitted to transition students to remote learning temporarily, and may do so by contacting the school’s principal.

At Elk County Catholic School System, President Sam MacDonald said the situation will continue to be monitored.

“School principals and other leaders are taking a hard look at daily operations to ensure compliance with masking and social distancing, and also assessing other things we can do to minimize risks to our students, staff and communities,” McDonald said.

St. Marys Area School District posted a notice saying there are no schedule changes.

Superintendent Dr. Brian Toth said that district leaders met via Skype with the departments of health and education.

“The (health department) has had a difficult time determining where the spread of cases is coming from in Elk County. The PDE and DOH, at this time, are only discussing community spreads and recommending options. No mandates,” Toth noted. “If Elk County stays in substantial status, we will have another PDE/DOH call next Monday.”

McKean County was listed in the moderate level of community transmission.

Potter and Cameron counties were in the low level of transmission.

On Monday, Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine outlined some alarming data from the COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring system.

As of Thursday, the state had seen a seven-day case increase of 10,127 cases; the previous seven-day increase was 8,849 cases, indicating a 1,278-case increase over the previous week’s total.

The statewide percent-positivity went up to 5.0% from 4.2% last week. Among the counties with concerning levels of percent-positivity were Elk at 5.9%, Venango at 7%, Franklin at 6% and Clarion at 5.1%. The health department said each of the counties bears watching.

According to the dashboard, McKean County had a percent-positivity rate of 3.9%; Potter County’s was 3.1%; Cameron County’s was zero.

The Department of Health is providing weekly data on the number of individuals who responded to case investigators that they spent time at business establishments (restaurants, bars, gym/fitness centers, salon/barbershops) and at mass gatherings 14 days prior to the onset of COVID-19 symptoms.

Of the 9,754 confirmed cases reported between Oct. 11 and 17, 29 percent (2,841) provided an answer to the question as to whether they spent time at a business establishment.

Of those who did provide an answer, 16.3 percent, or 464, answered yes, they visited a business establishment 14 days prior to onset of symptoms:

55 percent (256) of those who said yes reported going to a restaurant;

26 percent (122) of those who said yes reported going to some other business establishment;

13 percent (61) of those who said yes reported going to a bar;

11 percent (53) of those who said yes reported going to a gym/fitness center; and

7.5 percent (35) of those who said yes reported going to a salon/barbershop.

Of the 9,754 confirmed cases, 29 percent (2,856) answered the question as to whether they attended a mass gathering or other large event. Of the 29 percent, 16.9 percent (482) answered yes to whether they attended a mass gathering or other large event 14 days prior to onset of symptoms.

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