JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – There have now been exactly 500 COVID-19-related deaths recorded in Cambria County.

The grim milestone – for a county with a population of 133,472 in the most recent U.S. Census – was reached on Saturday when six new deaths were added to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s daily dashboard.

The 32 deaths counted so far in October already make it Cambria County’s fourth-deadliest month of the pandemic. For perspective, there were no COVID-19 deaths in the county in July before a new wave of cases hit in late summer and into the fall. July was the first month with zero deaths in Cambria County since March 2020.

Cambria County recorded 254 COVID-19 deaths in 2020, with the rest occurring this year. December 2020 was the county’s worst month, with 190 deaths.

Meanwhile, Cambria County continues to lag in vaccinations.

Almost 65% of Pennsylvania residents have received at least one dose, while 58.6% are fully vaccinated, although those numbers do not include Philadelphia County, which keeps separate statistics, according to the Department of Health website. In Cambria County, 57.6% have received one dose and 52.9% are fully vaccinated.

“We’re at a point where the more people who are vaccinated, the better chance we have of putting this behind us,” said Ashlee Kiel, a member of In This Together Cambria, an organization that advocates for what it calls evidence-based, community-led solutions to the pandemic. “And I think it’s important to know that the vaccine is doing what it’s supposed to do.”

In early October, the state reported that approximately three-quarters of the nearly 5,000 people who had been hospitalized for COVID-19-related medical issues during the previous month in Pennsylvania were unvaccinated. More than 90% of COVID-19-related deaths in the commonwealth throughout 2021 have been among the unvaccinated population.

“I think the message is clear that getting people vaccinated is the way for us to prevent more deaths in our county,” Kiel said.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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