POTTER COUNTY — COVID-19 has already made a mark on Potter County’s December with 41 new cases reported between Monday and Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed. Of these cases, 24 patients are from Coudersport.

Nineteen new cases were reported on Monday, as well. Previously, the DOH reported 11 cases for Nov. 30, but that number was updated to 19 on Wednesday. The county total is at 278 cases (249 confirmed, 29 probable) with five fatalities. 1,920 tests have returned negative.

Potter County Coroner Kevin Dusenbury would not comment on the COVID-19 related deaths and would not say their ages, gender or the zip code they lived in, saying he didn’t want to give away any information that could identify who they might be. The DOH confirmed that none of the deaths have occurred in a long-term care facility.

Commissioners continue to encourage mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing.

“We strongly, strongly support people wearing their masks. We know there are people going into stores and businesses without masks,” Commissioner Nancy Grupp said. “We can’t get a handle on this unless people start following that directive.”

Social distancing and washing hands are also important measures to take.

“All of these things will help put a handle on this virus,” she said. “It’s not political. It’s a concern and responsibility for your families, your friends, your neighbors,” Grupp said.

Grupp did confirm the county is scheduled for public testing, likely around Christmas time. Specifics are still being hammered out and more details will be released soon.

The commissioners don’t have definitive information on if the surge of cases are linked to any specific events within the county or if it is community spread.

“I have heard speculation in the community about certain gatherings that were the cause of the spread, but I have not seen that verified and just consider it speculation,” Commissioner Paul Heimel said.

The for those polymerase chain reaction (PCR) percent positivity rate in Potter County also jumped this week, increasing to 18.7% from 14.6% last week. This is almost four times the recommended 5% positivity rate. Potter County also remains in “substantial transmission.”

Local hospitals are beginning to feel an impact, as well. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports that 11 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized here and three adults are in the ICU. No patients in the county are on ventilators. While the website reports there is only one adult ICU bed open in the county, UPMC says it is well prepared.

“Because of extensive planning and preparation, UPMC facilities are safe and staff are well-equipped and know how to properly care for patients with COVID-19,” Tyler Wagner, manager of communications for UPMC Susquehanna region, wrote in an email to the Leader. “All UPMC hospitals, facilities and providers have the support of a world class academic medical center, using a wealth of knowledge and guidance on best practices. Should the need arise, we can share resources, transfer patients or mobilize staff between facilities.”