WAYNE AND PIKE COUNTIES, PA — Virtually the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is reporting substantial levels of COVID-19 community transmission as opposed to low or moderate levels.
For weeks, Wayne and Pike counties lagged behind as the only two of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to have moderate transmission levels—meaning that their positivity rates for COVID-19 were between five and 10 percent.
But according to the PA Department of Health’s Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard, Wayne’s positivity rate jumped from 8.2 percent to 12.9 percent as of December 4, when the dashboard was last updated. Pike County went from 7.1 to 10.1 percent. Pike County also saw 82 cases over the most recent seven-day period, 20 cases higher than the previous week.
Wayne County reported 131 cases over that same period, compared to 78 cases the week before. Fortunately, the average daily rate of hospitalizations remained steady at 5.7 percent, but the average number of patients on ventilators increased slightly from 0.1 to 0.3 percent in Wayne.
With COVID-19 numbers at an all-time high, many are anxious for a COVID-19 vaccine, while others remain anxious about the vaccine’s effects. During a recent Q&A session with the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Rachel Levine discussed the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are furthest along in development. Companies like AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Inovio and Novaxax are also working on vaccines. Levine said that Pennsylvania could receive its first batch within the month. The vaccine will be distributed to the states by the federal government.
Pennsylvania has a three-phase plan for vaccinating residents. In phase one, Pennsylvania will prioritize health care personnel, emergency medical service first responders, essential workers who are maintaining core societal functions, people 65 years and older and residents of congregate care settings. In phase two, when more vaccines are expected to be available, Pennsylvania will focus on populations from phase one who were not yet vaccinated and the general population. Finally, in phase three, Pennsylvania plans to have a sufficient supply to be made available to the entire population. The PA Department of Health has not specified when it will reach each of these phases, but Pennsylvania is likely several months away from phase three.
Levine said that in rural communities lacking their own hospitals or health systems, the state will be working with pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens to make the vaccine available. Vaccines will not be mandatory for any population in Pennsylvania.