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From the archives 2020

The deadliest day of the coronavirus in Pa., plus other insights we can glean from the data

by Daniel Simmons-Ritchie of Spotlight PA |

It’s been three months since Pennsylvania’s first reported cases of the coronavirus.
TIM TAI / Philadelphia Inquirer

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It’s been three months since Pennsylvania’s first reported cases of the coronavirus.

During that time, we’ve tried to not only provide you with in-depth reporting about COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, but context about the coronavirus-related numbers being pumped out daily by the state Department of Health.

Our data dashboard includes basic COVID-19 statistics like deaths and cases reported by the state. But you can also find testing information and by-county trends. We’re updating the data daily and working to add new features, and refine existing ones, every week.

Here are some other key statistics about the outbreak based on our analysis:

Hardest-hit region

There’s little doubt that the Philadelphia area has been the epicenter of Pennsylvania’s outbreak. Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware Counties have seen 2,972 people die from the virus, accounting for nearly half of all deaths. Delaware County, with 111 deaths per 100,000 people, has the highest death rate per capita in the state.

Least-impacted region

Compared to eastern Pennsylvania, the western half of the state — particularly rural counties in the northwest — have had significantly fewer reported cases and deaths. Eleven counties have had no reported deaths at all.

Screenshot of Spotlight PA COVID-19 data dashboard.
Daniel Simmons-Ritchie
Screenshot of Spotlight PA COVID-19 data dashboard.

Day with the most hospitalizations

Deaths in Pennsylvania have been trending downward significantly since late April, and so too have hospitalizations. April 27 marked the state’s peak: 2,800 people were in hospitals due to the coronavirus. By comparison, only about 850 people were in hospitals due to the virus each day over the past week.

Deadliest day

This metric demonstrates the limitations of using COVID-19 data from the state. Our data dashboard shows when deaths are reported by the health department to the public, which would make it seem as if May 5 was the deadliest day. But the timing of when a death is “reported” often doesn’t match when it actually occurred. In fact, based on new data from the state, April 25 was the deadliest day of the pandemic so far, with 179 deaths.

County with highest testing rate

One of Pennsylvania’s smallest counties has the highest rate of testing in the state. Montour County has a testing rate of 21,000 tests per 100,000 people, which is roughly the rate that some Harvard researchers have recommended. It’s also roughly triple the rate of the counties with the next highest rate: Northampton and Montgomery, with a rate of about 7,000 each.

Check out the full data dashboard here.

Have questions or ideas about Pa.‘s coronavirus data? Email Dan Simmons-Ritchie at dsimmons-ritchie@spotlightpa.org.

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