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Elderly, ill constitute far majority of COVID-19 deaths in PA, says state

PA Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine (right) at Monday’s press briefing

The far majority of coronavirus-related deaths in Pennsylvania have been in older people and, particularly, those with pre-existing illnesses.

The state Department of Health on Monday released its first weekly report with a breakdown of data from deaths attributed to COVID-19.

According to the data (see chart), as of Monday, 3,927 of 4,505 total deaths, or 87.5 percent, were of people 65 years and older.

“Clearly, the data from Pennsylvania and from other states and other countries show that seniors are most at risk of having severe complications to COVID-19 and tragically passing away,” said health Secretary Rachel Levine.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health: “Weekly Report for Deaths Attributed to COVID-19.

In addition, the commonwealth reported that the far majority of people who died had “co-morbidities,” or other illnesses, besides COVID-19.

“The seniors that would be most at risk are those with other types of medical co-morbidities or other medical conditions,” Levine said. “We know that those individuals are most at risk from COVID-19.”

The department today reported 4,529 incidents of “co-morbidities” among deceased patients, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. This incident count is higher than the actual death count because some patients had multiple diagnosed illnesses.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health: “Weekly Report for Deaths Attributed to COVID-19.

Levine said that, while younger people have lower death rates from COVID-19, they still are at risk for contracting serious cases of the illness.

“There are others at risk,” she said. “They have a much less death rate, but they do have significant rates of illness and that includes young adults and middle-aged adults.”

She added that children have a very low incidence of death from COVID-19, but are at risk from “the new multi-system inflammatory condition.

At her press briefing on Monday, Levine also explained that her department is now using death certificate information to determine the resident county of people who have died from the disease.

To date, 68.5 percent of total deaths in PA have been in residents of nursing and other care homes. These people sometimes officially resided in a different county from the location of the facility.

Because of this, county-by-county breakdowns of deceased patients changed significantly on Monday, particularly in Dauphin, Cumberland and Lancaster counties. These changes are indicated by the following summary for the greater Harrisburg area comparing deaths reported today to deaths reported yesterday:

  • Adams County: 5 deaths (yesterday, 6)
  • Cumberland County: 41 deaths (yesterday, 48)
  • Dauphin County: 50 deaths (yesterday, 39)
  • Franklin County: 25 deaths (yesterday, 13)
  • Lancaster County: 252 deaths (yesterday, 187)
  • Lebanon County: 21 deaths (yesterday, 19)
  • Perry County: 1 death (yesterday, 1)
  • York County: 18 deaths (yesterday, 16)

“One of the things we have to deal with is in terms of the differences between where a person passed away and what county they might be from and how that gets reported,” Levine said.

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