Coronavirus cases are on the uptick in Pennsylvania thanks to the delta variant, as new cases went from 907 to 1,480 over the past week.
PHILADELPHIA — The delta variant of the coronavirus is causing an uptick in cases across Pennsylvania, leading health officials in Philadelphia to strongly recommend universal mask usage while in public indoor spaces.
Last week, the total number of new cases over a seven-day period rose from 907 to 1,480 in the state. Increases were also seen in the percent positivity rate on tests over that same period, with the statewide measure rising from 1.4 to 1.7 percent.
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In Philadelphia, 2 percent of coronavirus tests have come back positive in the past two weeks. Philadelphia is averaging 64 new cases per day over the last two weeks.
As of Thursday, 146,142 Philadelphians have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and 3,763 have succumbed to the virus.
With those figures in mind, Philadelphia’s acting health commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, issued a statement Thursday calling for all Philadelphians — even those who are vaccinated — to masks in all public indoor places.
“We are seeing a small but disturbing increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 among children in Philadelphia, along with more than a doubling of cases in the city,” she said. “It’s time for all of us to do what we need to do to protect our city’s kids. That means getting fully vaccinated if you haven’t yet, and it means all of us going back to wearing masks in public. Kids under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated. They need you to step up. If you still have questions you need answered, call your doctor or our health department staff and get the information you need. And then get it done.”
Other recommendations from Philadelphia health officials include choosing outdoor rather than indoor spaces; avoiding crowded indoor spaces; wearing masks while indoors around people you don’t know are vaccinated; and considering double masking for unvaccinated people while in indoor public spaces.
It’s estimated the delta variant now accounts for 11.9 percent of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide, it’s believed delta accounts for 83.2 percent of new cases that have been genetically sequenced, officials said.
Early studies show the delta variant is more infectious. It has about double the hospitalization rate of the alpha variant, the CDC said. And even though fully vaccinated people have been infected with the virus in some cases, vaccines still offer strong protection; infected people are not typically sick enough to be admitted to the hospital, experts say.
The state’s vaccine rate continues to climb, as 61.9 percent of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated. Officials had originally set a goal of a 70 percent fully vaccinated rate by the end of June.
As of Thursday, 754,821 Philadelphia residents have been fully vaccinated, and 917,771 have gotten at least one dose.
That means 60.8 percent of Philadelphia adults are fully vaccinated, and 73.9 percent of Philadelphia adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Although cases are increasing in Pennsylvania, health care metrics have continued to trend downward. The average number of hospitalizations over a seven-day period is down from 290 to 251, according to the latest data.
Fifty-five patients with coronavirus are being treated in Philadelphia hospitals, with one on a ventilator, as of Thursday.
COVID-19 cases across the country tripled in the past three weeks, with hospitalizations and deaths rising among unvaccinated people. Officials fear that localized areas or even whole states with low vaccination rates could see coronavirus resurgences.
Four states with low vaccination rates accounted for 40 percent of new cases about a week ago, with nearly half from Florida, according to The Associated Press.
With reporting by Justin Heinze
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