Concerns over number of COVID-19 cases

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HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — In our area, Luzerne County has the most cases with 384. Five people have lost their lives.

Lehigh Valley Health Network says more than 300 of those who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 have been recorded in the Hazleton area. We’ve been promoting social distancing and it’s the same story here. Lehigh Valley Health Network says that 82 percent of people here are not adhering to guidelines and that needs to change if there’s any hope to avoid Hazleton becoming even more of a coronavirus hotspot.

“Less than two out of every 10 are following the guidelines. That’s extremely alarming,” Lehigh Valley Health Network president John Fletcher said.

That’s per Lehigh Valley Health Network internal research in Hazleton. Red flags also going up as positive coronavirus cases skyrocket from just 74 last week.

“Thursday it was up to 310. This is just data coming back from the Lehigh Valley Health testing sites in Hazleton and our hospital emergency room,” Lehigh Valley Health Network member Dr. Michael Evans said.

And that’s not factoring in other medical providers. Lehigh Valley says that information doesn’t get immediately announced by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. And more testing means the numbers will continue to rise.

“We’re testing about 150 patients per day so our data is a little bit different that what’s available online,” Evans said.

With a dense and growing population, Hazleton’s elected officials know they don’t have absolute power to turn things around.

“We can’t just do the obvious that people just want to be done. We can’t close the factories. We can’t close the interstates,” Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat said.

“What are they supposed to be doing as employees? The governor is telling them to stay home and be safe but they also don’t want to lose their jobs,” Representative Tarah Toohil said.

On top of that, a language barrier in a heavy Latino population means some have to go out of their way to understand the guidelines. State senator John Yudichak says he’s making headway in that department.

“We are going to use every effort to make sure that if there was a language barrier that we engage, communicate and stay on that simple message. Stay home,” Yudichak said.

No matter your background, elected and medical officials in Hazleton agree…

“The problem is here. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. We all need to keep working together on this,” Cusat said.

Again the message for everyone in Hazleton and beyond to practice social distancing. Lehigh Valley Health says they’re not in danger of being overwhelmed in capacity, but if something doesn’t change, it could only be a matter of time.

It’s worth noting that a majority of positive cases are being reported as full recoveries. But Lehigh Valley Health doctors say don’t let the low mortality rate fool you. This pandemic is a growing threat to public health for all ages.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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