Last week, Philadelphia health officials restarted their weekly coronavirus briefings, two months after they had ended.
The renewed briefings are another sign that the region is seeing a significant spread of the virus and that we must remain vigilant about wearing masks for indoor dining and other activities with large crowds and continue to encourage more people to become vaccinated.
Coronavirus hospitalizations are surging again as the more contagious delta variant rages across the country, forcing many hospitals, particularly in Florida and Texas, to return to a crisis footing.
The number of people now in the hospital in the U.S. with COVID-19 has almost quadrupled over the past month to nearly 45,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While that’s nowhere near the 124,000 people who were in the hospital at the very peak of the winter surge in January, experts worry that the wave has risen more swiftly than prior ones and that a large share of patients this time are young adults.
The rise in new cases is exacerbated by the fact that many Americans are still choosing not to become vaccinated, despite its easy availability.
Pennsylvania has the ninth highest vaccination rate in the country and still needs about a quarter of the population to get shots.
According to the city’s acting health commissioner, the more contagious delta variant is fueling a rapid rise in COVID-19 case counts in Philadelphia that is disproportionately affecting young adult African Americans.
But the Kenney administration will not mandate that city workers get the vaccine or proof of vaccination for indoor dining and a variety of other activities.
Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said she was concerned about how quickly virus case counts are rising, although case counts remain below those at the height of the pandemic.
“The pandemic in Philadelphia has taken a turn that none of us wanted to see,” Bettigole said during a virtual COVID-19 news briefing last week.
Virus case counts are rising the fastest among the unvaccinated ages 20 to 34, with African Americans more impacted than other racial groups.
“There’s definitely still a large group of young Black adults in our city that are at risk and who are getting infected, some of whom are ending up in the hospital,” said Bettigole.
The Kenney administration is considering vaccination mandates for the city’s 27,400 workers. New York City and the state of California already have imposed vaccine mandates on public employees.
Requiring proof of vaccination for workers and customers at activities around the city, such as indoor dining and gyms, also is not on the Kenney administration’s radar. Some local restaurants have begun requiring that customers show proof of vaccination.
New York City will become the first city in the U.S. to require proof of vaccination for workers and customers at indoor dining, gyms, entertainment and performances, according to the New York Times.
The city is averaging 152 new COVID-19 cases per day during the past two weeks, up from 25 reported July 1, according to a report last week from the city’s health department.
More than 62.7% of Philadelphia adults are fully vaccinated as of last Thursday.
While vaccination will not prevent infections altogether, it can prevent serious illness. Health officials say that the unvaccinated account for nearly all virus-related hospitalizations.
Let’s continue to encourage more Philadelphians to get vaccinated.
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