With COVID-19 cases climbing, Pa. reinforces its contact tracing app

By KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Although we have a better handle on the coronavirus than we did in the spring, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said it still needs to be taken seriously as case counts are rising across the state.

Outbreaks in other states, especially the Midwest, show the pandemic is still very much a threat, she said.

“The health systems in Wisconsin and the Dakotas are challenged,” she said. “We are seeing an increase in our hospitalizations. It has gone up three-fold — from 400 at the end of August, now to well over 1,100.”

That’s well off the peak of hospitalizations in the state from earlier this year, as the medical community has learned more about the virus, and testing and contact tracing are more widely available.

However, Levine said the number of hospitalizations in Pennsylvania has still gone up by about 500 in the last three to four weeks.

Earlier this week, Philadelphia announced cases are climbing so quickly that contact tracing can’t keep up — prompting health officials to call on residents everywhere to download the free contact tracing app, COVID Alert PA. It uses Bluetooth to alert users if they were in close contact with someone who tested positive.

More than 380,000 people are already using the app.

“Exceeding our expectations,” Levine said. “However, it works better the more people that sign up, and we’re looking for 1 million people to eventually sign up.”

It also comes down to individual responsibility to try to limit the spread, Levine added.

“This is a very contagious virus. This is a potentially very dangerous virus.”