by PublicSource Reporters
The transmission of COVID-19 continues to intensify in Allegheny County, and is now near levels seen in mid-January, according to health department director Dr. Debra Bogen.
“From our case investigations, we know that people are gathering in large and small groups, often without masks. We’ve noted a significant rise in people ignoring mitigation strategies,” Bogen said in a press briefing Wednesday. “When coupled with more variant cases, we have the foundation for a surge, which is born out in our case counts this week.”
COVID-19 tests came back positive 7.7% of the time in the past week, as opposed to 6% the previous week, according to the Allegheny County Health Department [ACHD]. On average, ACHD confirmed more than 400 cases a day over the last week. Hospitalizations in the county have increased by about 10 per week since mid-February.
This comes despite strides in the rollout of vaccines. By the end of last week, more than 70% of county residents 65 and older, as well as 40% of residents 50 to 64, received at least one vaccine dose. ACHD plans to open a new vaccination site in McKeesport late next week.
Later this week, the health department will announce when county residents can register with the new online vaccination registration form. ACHD recommends everyone sign up for vaccination, regardless of whether or not they are yet eligible.
Gains on vaccination do not make mitigation efforts any less crucial, according to Bogen.
“Short of everyone being vaccinated, [and] we are all working as hard as we can to accomplish that, the only way this pandemic will subside is if we all adhere to the tried and true mitigation strategies,” Bogen said, “of face-masking, keeping physically distant and limiting the size of social gatherings.”
Vaccination eligibility expanding through April 19
All Pennsylvanians 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination Apr. 19, almost two weeks prior to the deadline suggested by President Joe Biden, the state’s Department of Health [DOH] announced Wednesday.
Pennsylvania will still build up to this through the phases outlined months ago, but the progression will be much quicker than expected and comes with one tweak. The state has decided to prioritize vaccinating firefighters, grocery store workers, law enforcement as well as food and agriculture workers, all of whom will be eligible immediately.
On Apr. 5, Pennsylvania will move to phase 1b, which includes public transit workers and clergy members. On Apr. 12, phase 1c will arrive, including food service and government workers. The state’s new vaccination plan can be viewed here.
Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen (courtesy of Allegheny County)
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