State health chief: 'Game changer' vaccines bring end to mask order by late June

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May 27—Because "the vaccine is a game-changer," the state's 14-month-old universal masking order will be lifted by the end of June, acting health secretary Alison Beam announced Thursday.

"After reviewing the vaccination data for people 18 and over and discussing it with the COVID-19 Vaccine Legislative Task Force, we have determined that the commonwealth's mask order can be lifted on June 28 or when 70 percent of adults get their second dose, whichever comes first," Alison Beam, acting secretary of health, said Thursday during a press briefing.

Beam clarified that the mask order could be lifted earlier if enough people get the vaccine.

"We want this to still be something that motivates people to get vaccinated," she said.

She commended Pennsylvanians for doing their part to fight the pandemic.

"Yesterday we hit a milestone with 70 percent of adults receiving at least one dose of vaccine," she said. "That's a strong indicator that we are on track to get at least that many getting both doses by the end of June."

As of Thursday, 52.7% of adults are fully vaccinated and 97.7% of those age 65 and older have received at least one dose.

"Pennsylvanians are realizing that they have the power to stop COVID-19 and they are stepping up to get vaccinated," Beam said. "That puts the future in the hands of all Pennsylvanians."

Monday's update by the Department of Health showed vaccine providers have administered 10,385,967 doses and 4,589,247 people are fully vaccinated.

Another 1,589,315 are partially vaccinated, meaning they have received one dose of a two-dose vaccine.

Meanwhile, new cases continue to come down, with 941 additional positives in Thursday's update, bringing the statewide total to 1,199,536.

Cambria County reported 25 new COVID-19 cases, Somerset County added 13 cases, Bedford County added eight cases, Blair County added 15 cases, Indiana County added 11 cases, Clearfield County added 13 cases, Centre County added eight cases and Westmoreland County added 26 cases.

One Somerset County death was the region's only new COVID-19 fatality among 40 new deaths statewide, bringing the total to 27,163 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

The rolling seven-day averages show infection rates also continue to trend lower in local counties.

Cambria County's average is 19 cases a day, dropping below 20 cases for the first time since March 27. Two weeks ago, the county was averaging 36 cases a day, after hitting a spring peak of nearly 60 cases a day in mid-April.

Blair County's average is now 23 cases a day, down from 36 cases two weeks ago.

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