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Hard to tell why Juniata County has more cases

Health Department releases data broken down by ZIP code

Juniata County added two new COVID-19 cases Monday for a to-date total of 72 with just 69 negative tests, according to data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Juniata County’s status as an outlier in both the number of positives relative to its neighboring counties of comparable population and it being the only county in Pennsylvania with fewer negative tests than positive ones has led many to wonder why that is the case.

“It is hard to tell why Juniata County has had more cases than surrounding counties,” said Nate Wardle, press secretary for the health department, in response to a question submitted by The Sentinel for Monday’s press briefing with Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine and Gov. Tom Wolf that was not asked by the moderator. “They haven’t had any long-term care cases, so that is not the issue. However, if there were a few cases at a place of business or other location where people frequently gather in the county, sometimes that can lead to a number of cases.”

Wardle didn’t specify any particular businesses or locations, but at least two Juniata County employers (Empire Kosher and Weis Markets, both of which are in Mifflintown) have previously revealed that staff has tested positive for COVID-19.

Other local counties reported little or no change.

Snyder County’s total increased by one to 28 with one death. Mifflin (20), Huntingdon (13) and Perry (20 with one death) counties each saw their numbers remain unchanged. There have been 523 negative tests in Mifflin County, 128 in Snyder County, 179 in Huntingdon County and 119 in Perry County.

For the first time Monday, the health department released COVID-19 data broken down by home ZIP code of patients and, unsurprisingly, given its higher case total, a pair of Juniata County areas had the highest local totals of positive tests.

According to health department data, ZIP code 17059, which includes Mifflintown Borough and many surrounding areas, listed 32 positive tests, the most in the area and more than the totals in Mifflin, Snyder, Perry or Huntingdon counties.

ZIP code 17058, which includes Mifflin Borough and nearby areas, had the second-most locally at 16 cases. Third-highest was 17044, which is Lewistown Borough and neighboring areas, at 13 cases. ZIP code 17082, the Port Royal area, had 12 cases and 17841, which is for McClure but covers portions of Mifflin and Snyder counties, had five.

Of the 26 ZIP codes that serve various parts of The Sentinel’s coverage area, nine have yet to report any positive tests. Those are 17002 (Allensville), 17084 (Reedsville), 17009 (Burnham), 17029 (Granville), 17243 (Orbisonia in Huntingdon County, which includes a part of Juniata County), 17035 (Honey Grove), 17076 (Oakland Mills), 17086 (Richfield) and 17813 (Beavertown).

Several ZIP codes had the exact number redacted, presumably for patient privacy purposes, if the number of positives was between one and four. Those ZIP codes include 17004 (Belleville), 17063 (Milroy), 17051 (McVeytown), 17066 (Mount Union, but also includes a part of Mifflin County), 17021 (East Waterford), 17049 (McAlisterville), 17094 (Thompsontown), 17062 (Millerstown), 17045 (Liverpool), 17853 (Mount Pleasant Mills, which includes a part of Juniata County), 17812 (Beaver Springs) and 17842 (Middleburg).

Some local ZIP codes are for post office box use only and do not cover a geographic area. Those ZIP codes are not included in the data.

Regionally, Centre County’s total did not change, staying at 73, but it did report its first virus-related death over the weekend. Dauphin County added 18 cases for a new total of 386 with nine total deaths. Franklin County added four cases for a new total of 115 and Union County’s total increased by one to 28.

Statewide, there have been 33,232 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,204 deaths due to the virus. There have been 129,720 negative tests to date in Pennsylvania.

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