Post-holiday COVID-19 surge less severe in state, vaccines come to farmers market

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Jul. 14—New COVID-19 cases continue to creep higher across the state but at a slower pace than the national surge.

There were 273 new positives in Wednesday's update by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, pushing the state's rolling seven-day average to 229 cases a day.

While that's up about 17% in three weeks, the nation's average daily cases are up by 28% in same period.

Experts link the surge to several factors, including the fast-spreading delta variant, lagging vaccination rates and Fourth of July gatherings.

"It is certainly no coincidence that we are looking at exactly the time that we would expect cases to be occurring after the July Fourth weekend," Dr. Bill Powderly, co-director of the infectious-disease division at Washington University's School of Medicine in St. Louis, told the Associated Press.

The success of Pennsylvania's vaccine program is helping slow the resurgence here.

Nationally, 55.6% of all Americans have received at least one COVID-19 shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Pennsylvania, 56.2% have received at least one dose.

The AP reports the five states with the biggest two-week jump in cases per capita all had lower vaccination rates than the national average: Missouri, 45.9%; Arkansas, 43%; Nevada, 50.9%; Louisiana, 39.2%; and Utah, 49.5%.

One local organization is redoubling efforts to get even more people vaccinated.

Highlands Health free medical clinic will take its program to the streets again Friday with free vaccines from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Johnstown's Central Park during the weekly farmers market.

"Our work is not done," Executive Director Rosalie Danchanko said in a press release.

"Now with the multiple variants of COVID, we are begging those not vaccinated to do so. As we vaccinate, we can stop the spread of the coronavirus and prevent the opportunity for mutations."

Highlands Health has provided 9,833 vaccinations since they first became available. Its program for homebound residents has brought its volunteer nurses and doctors into 630 homes.

"The homebound effort has been a humbling experience but one of the most rewarding," Danchanko said.

"We have met amazing people who are very appreciative. One woman was 107 years old and another gentleman survived Iwo Jima."

She credited Cambria and Somerset commissioners and Area Agencies on Aging, along with Tableland Services and CamTran for making the homebound program successful.

In this region, there were 27 new cases and no additional COVID-19 deaths across eight counties in Wednesday's update by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Somerset and Indiana counties each had one new case; Cambria, Blair and Bedford counties had two cases each; Centre County had five and Westmoreland County had 14 new cases.

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