WEST CHESTER — The incidence of the novel coronavirus continues to grow in Chester County, although not at the numbers of other suburban counties in the area, nor of the city of Philadelphia, where the number of cases topped 2,600 on Sunday and the number of deaths at 24.
According to the county Health Department, which is tracking the disease here and in Delaware County, the number of presumptive positive tests for the virus stood at 266 on Sunday, 20 more than had been recorded through Saturday.
Since March 21, when there were but 22 cases of the virus recorded by health officials, the number of daily increases in positive tests has risen by an average of just under 18 new cases a day, according to the county’s figures.
The largest increase in cases came on March 28, when the county grew from 110 to 137, or 27 cases. The lowest increase since that date, coincidentally, came the day before, on March 27, with just eight new positive tests.
The number of residents who have died of COVID-19, the disease that arises from the virus, still stood at two on Sunday morning, although county officials say that three people over have died in the county; one was a resident of Montgomery County.
Overall, the county has the fewest number of coronavirus cases and the fewest number of recorded deaths.
Of the four suburban Philadelphia counties, Montgomery County is seeing the greatest number of cases, with 1,111 on Sunday, according to the state Department of Health. There were 18 deaths there, the suburban region’s highest populated county, the most in the region. In Delaware County there were 708 cases, with 14 deaths, while in Bucks County there were 488 cases, with 13 deaths.
There were 2,60 cases in Philadelphia, according to state figures.
County Health Department officials have been unable to give an explanation as to why the county’s numbers were lower than its suburban neighbors. All four counties have taken similar steps to reduce person-to-person contact in their borders, and are generally following Gov. Tom Wolf’s “Stay at Home” order.
But since the virus is spread through humans, primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharges from the nose, the number of people in a county and its population density would seem to play a role. To that degree, Chester County has the lowest density of all the suburban counties, with 691 people per square mile, while Delaware County has the largest, with 3,065 people per square mile.
On Thursday, a number of officials involved with the virus fight will gather for a tele-townhall event on the COVID-19 emergency for residents of Chester and Delaware counties.
Experts participating in the tele-townhall include: Jeanne Casner, the county Health Department director; a representative of the county’s Departmnt of Human Services; Dr. Lawrence Livornese, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Main Line Health System and a board-certified specialist in infectious disease; Tim Boyce, director of Emergency Services in Delaware County; and Eric R. Kratz, executive rirector of the state Senate’s Labor and Industry Committee and an expert on unemployment compensation.
The event is being hosted by state SEn. Thomas Killion, R-9th, of Middletown, whose district spans the two counties.
“The uncertainty and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 crisis is palpable,” said Killion in a press release. “Unfortunately, in our social media-driven age it can often be challenging to distinguish good information from rumors and speculation.
“The experts joining me will be able to directly answer questions from residents and make sure they’re well informed to the best extent possible,” he said.
Those interested in participating in the call should visit the tele-townhall page on Killion’s website to register, senatorkillion.com/tele-town-hall. Residents and those who have registered will receive an automated call just prior to the start of the event.
Meanwhile, if there is a “silver lining” to the virus, it is that the crime rate seems to have lessened over the past weeks.
According to published reports, state police recorded 3,417 criminal offenses between Feb. 29 and March 13, when the governor announced a statewide school closure. The next two weeks, criminal offenses fell sharply to 1,182.
The number of car crashes, arrests and DUI arrests also each dropped by more than half across the state, according to figures from March 14 to March 27.
State police logged 2,259 car crashes in the two weeks prior to March 13 but just 1,092 in the two weeks that followed. That means occupants of more than 1,100 vehicles could have been hurt but weren’t; those vehicles could have been damaged but weren’t.
While crimes and crashes have dropped, calls for service, however, increased 22 percent for state police in the end of March. Those calls include self-initiated police work such as checking on a closed schools, businesses and liquor establishments, said Ryan Tarkowski, Pennsylvania State Police communications director.
It’s likely some of the increased duties of state police because of the coronavirus shutdowns contributed to the increase, he said. Police were tasked to ensure malls and liquor establishments had closed and also are focused on checking on closed businesses to prevent burglaries and vandalism.
Tarkowski on Friday said he dd not have specific numbers for the two state police barracks in the county, at Embreeville and Avondale.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.