COVID-19 surge continues; state reports few deaths, hospitalizations among 'breakthrough' cases

·2 min read

Sep. 16—Seven new COVID-19 deaths across the region Thursday included Somerset County's second fatality in as many days.

Westmoreland County recorded three additional deaths, Clearfield County added two and Indiana County had one among 72 new deaths statewide, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported.

The state also added 5,786 positive cases, bringing the statewide totals to 1,365,049 cases and 28,768 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Cambria added 71 cases, Somerset added 50, Bedford added 66, Blair added 75, Indiana added 46, Clearfield added 44, Centre added 55 and Westmoreland added 237 new cases on Thursday.

Although some new cases are among those fully vaccinated against the virus, state experts presented data this week that show that the "breakthrough" cases represent a small percentage of serious illnesses and deaths.

"The data show that, compared to unvaccinated people, fully vaccinated Pennsylvanians are seven times less likely to get COVID-19, and eight times less likely to die from COVID-19," acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said at a news conference in Lancaster.

Among 6,472 COVID-19-related deaths since Jan. 1, only 213 deaths were identified as post-vaccination. The death rate of unvaccinated Pennsylvanians was 7.9 times as high as the death incidence among the fully vaccinated.

Since January, 95% of COVID-19 hospitalizations involved unvaccinated individuals, or people not fully vaccinated.

"This data are further proof that the vaccines are our best tool to protect ourselves against the virus, keep our children learning in schools, keep our workforce in-person and foster social and economic recovery," Beam said. "Every person who chooses to get vaccinated brings us a step closer to moving past the pandemic."

The UPMC Health System, with hospitals in Somerset, Bedford and Altoona, had 440 COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the system on Monday.

"Over the past several weeks, we have seen as much as 19 times more non-vaccinated patients ages 50 and younger admitted to UPMC hospitals compared to vaccinated patients," Chief Medical Officer Dr. Donald Yealy said. "Vaccination is crucial at this time. Our urgent plea is for everyone eligible for a vaccine to get one."

The vaccine distribution effort, however, continues to drag.

Combining the state and Philadelphia health departments' updates shows vaccine providers have administered 14,426,834 doses, and there are now 7,018,380 people fully vaccinated across Pennsylvania.

While the reports show 146,693 doses were administered and an additional 76,728 became fully vaccinated over the past seven days, that's down from 151,117 doses and 78,310 fully vaccinated over the previous seven days.

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