Behind the Hazleton coronavirus numbers

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HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Department of Health is now releasing the number of positive cases of coronavirus by zip code.

Those numbers point to Hazleton as having the highest number of positive cases in Luzerne County. The bad news is the number of infected residents in Hazleton is still high compared to the rest of our area. The good news? The numbers are a far cry from what we saw just two weeks ago.

“We saw the curve go up and we leveled off and we’ve been basically plateaued here for, I’m going to say, a week or so. We’ve been at about the same level,” Dr. Anthony Valente of the Lehigh Valley Health Network said.

Finally some positive news on the COVID-19 front. Not long ago, research showed less than two out of 10 people social distancing in Hazleton. But health officials say they’re seeing progress.

“I think where we are today is, first off, I want to thank the community. You have delivered on the things that we’ve asked you to do,” Lehigh Valley Health Network, Hazleton president John Fletcher said.

An effort that has been seen first-hand by Mayor Jeff Cusat.

“I really believe that following those guidelines, we have started to a slowdown in the uptick of what’s going on in Hazleton,” Cusat said.

But despite the mayor and Lehigh Valley being able to identify and address the issue early on, the 1,000-plus cases detailed by the Pennsylvania Health Department is still daunting.

“It’s the calculations and number of tests coming in that is slowing down. It makes it look like we’ve reached our peak, but I don’t believe we have,” Cusat said.

The mayor and the health network are trying to get more testing and a more accurate representation of spread in the city. Cusat also wants to take care of the problem in Hazleton, not at the new regional testing site in Wilkes-Barre Township.

“We want to get the testing done here. We want the results done here so we can treat people here,” Cusat said.

While the Department of Health’s latest figures point to a positive trend, there’s still a long road ahead.

“I now believe that people are following and they know it’s real. They’re going to continue to do their part to make it better,” Cusat said.

The curfew is still in effect and strict enforcement of orders will continue. The mayor believes those two things can help make a difference in the fight against the pandemic. Mayor Cusat says he’s tracking Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home extension and potential for opening up some businesses.

Even if businesses do open up, they’ll have to do it under those curfew guidelines.

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