First Injection

Christine Spinos, director of acute care at Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center in Windber, receives the hospital's first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine injection from clinical staffer Tausha Garettson on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020.

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out in greater volumes, area hospitals have begun registering eligible recipients to schedule appointments.

Until now, hospitals were vaccinating their own employees and others in the medical and emergency services communities. Vaccines for other eligible individuals have largely been provided through pharmacy networks, where appointments filled up almost immediately.

On Monday, Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center announced that patients are being put in line for vaccines through the organization’s MyChart patient portal or by phone.

As new vaccine appointments become available, notifications through MyChart will alert eligible users how to schedule their vaccinations. Currently, only those in the state’s Phase 1a tier are eligible. They include health-care workers, those age 65 and older and those age 16-64 with high-risk conditions.

Most Conemaugh Memorial patients already have and manage their MyChart accounts, a Conemaugh press release said. Others may enroll through

Existing MyChart users don’t need to sign up for vaccine, but should watch their accounts and associated emails for updates and notifications when they become eligible. Vaccination appointments scheduled through MyChart may not be used by anyone except for the person who received the notification.

Registration for UPMC hospitals is available at

For Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber, registration for those in Phase 1a is by email at

In response to a new state order, all hospitals have introduced vaccine hotlines for those who don’t have internet access. Most vaccine lines do not appear to be taking voicemail registration but are staffed when vaccine is available.

Almost 1.5 million Pennsylvanians have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The department reported 1,459,241 have received the first dose and 541,091 have received the second dose and are considered to be fully protected.

New cases declining

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s new-case totals have resumed a downward trend after leveling off for most of the past two weeks, the Department of Health report shows.

Monday’s update showed 1,521 additional positive cases and 17 deaths, bringing the statewide totals to 915,018 cases and 23,614 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

The state reported that the seven-day rolling average for new cases was down to 2,594 a day. That marked the sixth consecutive day with a decreasing average and the third day that the average showed fewer than 3,000 cases.

There were 29 total cases and no additional COVID-19 deaths across Cambria, Somerset, Bedford and Blair counties in Monday’s update.

Expanding to the eight-county region, there were no additional deaths and just 84 total COVID-19 cases, with Westmoreland County’s 26 new cases representing the largest increase.

Positivity rates dip

The department’s Early Warning Monitoring System showed 6.5% of all COVID-19 tests last week were positive for the virus. That’s down from 8% statewide for the prior seven days.

All eight area counties had lower positivity rates than the state average.

• Cambria County added 10 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and had a 4.0% positivity rate last week.

• Somerset County added five cases and had a 4.1% positivity rate.

• Bedford County added six cases and had a 6.4% positivity rate.

• Blair County added eight cases and had a 4.4% positivity rate.

• Indiana County added three cases and had a 4.5% positivity rate.

• Clearfield County added 13 cases and had a 3.6% positivity rate.

• Centre County added 13 cases and had a 4.5% positivity rate.

• Westmoreland County added 26 cases and had a 6.3% positivity rate.

Positivity rates above 5% have been cited as a cause for concern by the health department.

Statewide hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients have dropped below 2,000 patients, with 1,963 currently hospitalized, including 418 in intensive care units and 240 on ventilators or breathing machines. Cambria, Blair and Somerset county hospitals had 50 COVID-19 inpatients, with five in ICUs and five on ventilators. Bedford County hospitals had no COVID-19 patients, the health department reported.

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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