Text reminders will be sent next week to 254,850 Pennsylvanians who received a first COVID-19 vaccine dose before May 14 and who have not received a second dose, Allison Beam, the state’s acting secretary of health, said Thursday.
State Department of Health officials said the latest increase in COVID-19 cases is directly related to low vaccination rates.
“We are having a resurgence right now of COVID because we have a reservoir of people who are not vaccinated, so the virus is free to spread in that group of people,” Dr. Denise Johnson, acting physician general, said Thursday during a press briefing.
State leaders are not planning any new mask mandates, and the officials said Pennsylvanians can help prevent those orders by getting vaccinated.
The department urged those who have not done so to get the vaccine – and called on those who skipped the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to follow through with the recommended second shots.
“If you have only received one dose of the vaccine, it’s never too late to get that second dose,” Beam said at a press briefing. “This is very important because you need to be fully vaccinated to have maximum protection against the delta variant, which is spreading across the country.”
The highly contagious delta variant now accounts for 83% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States and 65% of cases in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s district that include Pennsylvania.
New cases up
The state topped 1,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time in two months Thursday, with all local counties reporting multiple new cases.
There were 1,088 new cases and four additional deaths in Thursday’s update by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, bringing Pennsylvania’s totals to 1,223,390 cases and 27,842 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
Cambria County added six cases, Somerset County added four, Bedford County added three, Blair County added eight, Indiana County added five, Clearfield County added three, Centre County added 15 and Westmoreland County added 31 new cases.
There were no additional deaths in the eight-county area.
Beam said 52% of all Pennsylvanians and 62.6% of all those 18 and older are now fully vaccinated. Among those 65 and older, 83.5% are fully vaccinated.
That figure demonstrates the effectiveness of the vaccine at preventing serious illness and death, Johnson said, explaining that most hospitalizations are now of younger patients.
“We have seen very many younger people who believe themselves to be at low risk have severe problems with COVID-19,” she said.
Those who were previously ill with COVID-19 are still urged to get the vaccine because evidence shows not all patients have a lasting immune response from the natural illness, Johnson said.
Combining newly updated reports Thursday from the state health department and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health shows vaccine providers have administered 13,408,101 doses and there are now 6,536,695 people fully vaccinated for COVID-19.