With local cases rising, the federal government classifies COVID transmission as “high” in Allegheny County. Masking is urged in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.
Previously, county officials said they were monitoring an increase in COVID-19 cases among children and concerns about growing hospitalizations.
“The Delta variant, combined with the still significant number of unvaccinated people, is driving our trends,” Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen said in a Wednesday briefing. “And it’s now having an impact on children here too.”
Among the general population, infection and hospitalization totals continue to rise, with the average number of daily new cases nearly doubling in the past week, Bogen said.
The county experienced a high of 227 new cases on Monday, with another 157 new cases reported on Tuesday.
Among children in the county, COVID-19 transmission has grown at an alarming rate, Bogen reported.
In July, only 110 children in the county under 12 contracted COVID. For the first third of August, that total is already 188, with the virus’ spread likely to increase, Bogen said. She noted the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has also reported seeing a small increase in pediatric hospitalizations in recent weeks.
“As case numbers increase, it’s proportionate, so you’re going to see more children hospitalized,” Bogen said. “More children will die from this infection.”
With school reopenings set to begin in the second half of August, Bogen restated her support for the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all students and staff wear masks. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said about half of the county’s school districts are implementing some type of mask mandate, and he recommended the other half follow suit.
Fitzgerald didn’t provide much new information about the potential return of a universal indoor mask mandate in the county.
“There’s no one metric” that will trigger a new mandate, Fitzgerald said, though he acknowledged the region is in a “very different place” than it was when the mandate was initially lifted.
Bogen noted the recent trends are especially alarming given that the virus’ renewed spread has been driven by people who are eligible to get vaccinated but choose not to. This, in turn, puts children without the option to get inoculated at risk.
The best the county can do to protect those children as of now is to continue its vaccine outreach and implement measures to protect students in the classroom.
“Get vaccinated for all the children who still cannot,” Bogen said.
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