Allegheny County Officials Encourage Masking and Vaccination as Covid Cases Rise
“Practice physical distancing. If you don’t need to be out, stay home. If you are sick, stay home,” says Dr. Debra Bogen.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Allegheny County Health Department Director Debra Bogen on Tuesday once again urged residents to mask up, get vaccinated and practice other mitigation measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, stopping short of imposing any mandates in the face of rising infection rates.
Last Wednesday, Allegheny County officials announced that they would switch to a weekly reporting structure for COVID-19 data, providing updates every Tuesday rather than daily in order to better observe trends.
According to Fitzgerald, almost 918,000 county residents have received at least one vaccine dose, and almost 300,000 have received their booster. About 75% of county residents have received one dose, and 64.6% have received at least two doses.
But despite this, cases continue to climb — likely because of the ultra contagious omicron variant, which was detected in the county late last week.
Officials once again stressed the importance of wearing a mask and practicing other safety measures like social distancing and staying home unless you need to go out.
“Even with a high level of vaccination, the CDC’s COVID data tracker continues to show high community transmission in Allegheny County,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “We have said this for weeks as well, but we urge residents, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear a mask in public, indoor settings to limit spread.”
Bogen added that aside from vaccination — which she called the most important mitigation measure — wearing a properly fitting mask, especially when indoors, is the single most important thing one can do to help protect against the virus.
“Wear the best quality mask you have and consider double masking by wearing a surgical mask covered by a cloth mask, two surgical masks, or a KN95 mask,” she said. “Masks greatly reduce the transmission of the virus.”
Businesses, too, can help slow the spread and protect workers by requiring masks in their business, she said.
From Dec. 19 to Dec. 25, the county reported 6,340 new cases, bringing the total case count up to 169,393. There have been 48 new deaths this past week, too, and 132 hospitalizations.
Of the infected listed in today’s weekly data set, 49% had not been vaccinated. Even while the vaccinated may still catch the virus through a breakthrough infection, the jab can still help prevent serious illness and death.
Folks looking to get vaccinated may find empty shelves in their hunt for at-home rapid tests, as the holidays have contributed to increased demand. But there are still ample testing locations folks can go to if they’ve been exposed or are experiencing symptoms.
Curative offers sites around the region, many of which provide drive-thru testing. The county also has a range of mobile and fixed testing locations through curative, and you can find a list of these sites here.
CVS, Rite Aid and many independent pharmacies also have on-site or drive-thru testing and UPMC operates testing centers in the county and beyond. Many universities also offer testing for students and staff.
The prime time to get tested is between five and seven days after exposure, Bogen said, because of the virus’ incubation period. Getting tested too soon could lead to a false negative.