Will You Have to Wear a Mask Again in Allegheny County?
While there has been an uptick in COVID-19 cases, Allegheny County won’t implement another mask mandate — at least not yet.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending everyone, even those who are vaccinated, mask up indoors in areas with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission rates, Allegheny County has no plans to implement another mask mandate — at least not yet.
During a health briefing Wednesday, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said Allegheny County is not considered to be a high-transmission zone, which would trigger the CDC’s mask recommendation.
“There is no mask mandate here, but the CDC continues to recommend, and I support, that those who are not vaccinated wear masks when indoors with others,” Bogen said.
Allegheny County’s current case rate of 17 cases per 100,000 people falls into the CDC’s moderate-transmission zone. The current positivity rate is 2.7%, which puts it in the low-transmission zone, Bogen said.
However, she added that when a county’s case numbers and positivity numbers are in different zones, the CDC mask guidance is triggered by the higher zone — and Allegheny County’s rates are on the rise. The more contagious delta variant, now the dominant COVID strain in the U.S., has accounted for around 66% of the cases in this area according to CDC regional statistics.
“In late June and early July, our cases were about 10 to 15 new cases a day,” Bogen said. “Now, just three weeks later, we’re experiencing 70 to 75 new cases a day and our case investigations continue to trace the positive tests back to small and large gatherings, mostly indoors with no social distancing or mask wearing.”
Fitzgerald said the area’s hospitalization and death numbers have not gone up, but noted there is a lagging indicator there.
“The delta variant is basically like a new virus on top of what we’ve been dealing with the original COVID virus over the last year and a half,” he said. “And unfortunately, this virus is more contagious, spreads much more easily than the original COVID [virus] and also is more virulent, particularly among young people.”
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 data tracker as of Thursday, Lawrence County is the only county in the Pittsburgh region with substantial transmission. All other counties fall into the moderate category, or below the CDC’s recommendation for a mask mandate.
Fitzgerald and Bogen continued to emphasize the best way to stop the spread of the virus is to get vaccinated, with Bogen stressing the virus is primarily targeting and thriving among the unvaccinated.
“As for schools, I’d like to remind everyone that children under 12 are not yet eligible for COVID vaccine and that the single best way to protect our children is for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated,” she said.