As Biden announces a change in releasing vaccine doses, PA officials update the state’s vaccine rollout plan

by PublicSource Reporters

On Friday, Jan. 8, the state shared new information about who will be eligible for the vaccines and boasted its testing rate as above the national average. President-elect Joe Biden announced his administration will release available vaccine doses widely instead of storing doses to guarantee people get the second shot. And in Allegheny County, officials reported 967 new COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine reported Thursday that a confirmed COVID-19 variant case was found in Dauphin County. This COVID-19 variant was first discovered in the UK in December. The individual who tested positive in Pennsylvania had mild symptoms which have been resolved after their home isolation. This individual tested positive after known international exposure and a case investigation. Contact tracing was conducted to identify other people who came in close contact with the positive case.

“Pennsylvania has been preparing for this variant by working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] and has been sending 10 to 35 random samples biweekly to the CDC since November to study sequencing and detect any potential cases for this new COVID-19 variant,” Levine said. 

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 virus can mutate regularly since mutations among viruses are common. The CDC expects that all currently available diagnostic tests will detect the variant as COVID-19 and that the COVID-19 vaccines with federal Emergency Use Authorizations will be effective against this variant as well.

Levine said public health experts are working to study the virus and understand how this new variant spreads and affects those who are infected. 

“There is still much to learn about this new variant, so we need to remain vigilant and continue to urge Pennsylvanians to stop the spread by washing their hands, practicing social distancing, avoiding gatherings, downloading COVID Alert PA and answering the call. Stay calm, stay alert and stay safe,” Levine said.

The Department of Health announced Friday that Pennsylvania is above the national average for its testing rate, according to a White House Task Force Weekly report. According to the report, Pennsylvania was at the yellow level, performing between 2,000 to 2,999 tests per 100,000 people for the previous week. 

Director of Testing and Contact Tracing Michael Huff reported that as of Jan. 8, the department collected results from 8,466,597 COVID-19 PCR and antigen tests statewide. Over the past 30 days, the department reported a total of nearly 69,629 tests each day on average.

“We want Pennsylvanians to know that if they need a test, one is available,” Levine said. “This week, we have added five free testing sites and will continue to expand testing opportunities across the state weekly.”

Allegheny County’s COVID-19 vaccination program will soon quicken, just as it expects a new, more contagious form of the virus to arrive.

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As Biden announces a change in releasing vaccine doses, PA officials update the state’s vaccine rollout plan

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