COVID

A person wearing a mask is reflected onto the calm waters of Lake Julia Monday at Buhl Park.

HARRISBURG — Now that the holidays are over, efforts to administer a vaccine for COVID-19 will “gear up,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pennsylvania has administered just under one-third of the COVID-19 vaccine doses provided to the state.

In Ohio, health care providers have administered 52% of the doses provided to the state, according to the CDC. West Virginia has administered 48% of the doses provided by the federal government, according to the CDC.

On the other hand, Pennsylvania is doing slightly better than New York, where health care providers have given 31% of doses provided by the federal government; and Maryland, at 29%.

“I wouldn’t say we’re behind,” Levine said. “Now the holidays are over, things are going to be gearing up. It’s going to gear up a lot.”

There were 17,398 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered to people in Pennsylvania last Wednesday, the largest number on a single day, according to state data. Thursday, New Year’s Eve, the state reported 7,350 vaccines were given, and no vaccines were given on New Year’s Day, no vaccines.

Levine said 135,044 COVID vaccine doses have been administered in the state. The state got its first doses of vaccine Dec. 14.

In addition, workers from CVS and Walgreens vaccinated residents and staff at 115 nursing homes in the state last week. Levine said the state hasn’t been notified yet how many people were vaccinated at those facilities.

The CDC’s vaccine tracking data shows 155,983 doses of vaccine have been administered in Pennsylvania. State records indicate that 959 vaccinations have been given in Mercer County.

Rachel Kostelac, a Department of Health spokeswoman, said the CDC data appeared to include vaccine doses given by federal agencies, including Veterans Health Administration and the Bureau of Prisons, which were not included in the state total.

Levine said the state expects to receive 246,725 doses of vaccine this week. That includes 97,500 doses that will be used to provide second-doses to people who’ve already been administered the COVID vaccine shot once, she said.

Levine said state officials are working to iron out their strategy for broadening the distribution of COVID vaccine when the state is ready to begin offering the vaccine to people in the groups considered part of Phase 1B, including adults over the age of 75 living outside of long-term care facilities, teachers, prisoners and prison workers, and those who work in food production and PPE manufacturing facilities.

Levine said state officials are aware of reports that some staff in hospitals and nursing homes aren’t signing up to be vaccinated.

She said it’s not clear how many health care workers who would be eligible for the vaccine have opted not to get it, but state officials are urging people who are eligible to get the vaccine to do so.

“It’s so important,” she said.

Survey data released in mid-December by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a San Francisco-based non-profit health policy analysis firm, found that 27% of people surveyed say they wouldn’t get a COVID vaccine or they were hesitant about getting the vaccine. That survey found the hesitancy was highest among Republicans, those aged 30-49 and rural residents.

The effort to vaccinate Pennsylvanians comes as three weeks of ramped-up mitigation efforts expired Monday morning. Bars, indoor dining, gyms and other entertainment venues, had all been shut down since Dec. 12.

Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday that those mitigation efforts seemed to have worked.

“The sacrifices Pennsylvanians took over the holidays to celebrate differently than usual and with people inside your household are signs of our continued resilience and drive to fight against COVID-19,” Wolf said. “We must continue these best practices to stay safe and keep our friends, family and loved ones safe while COVID-19 remains a threat in our communities,” he said.

Hospital preparedness

The state Department of Health reported Monday that 5,630 COVID-19 patients are admitted to hospitals in Pennsylvania, with 1,182 in intensive care units and 678 on ventilators. All of those figures represent continuing declines in hospital demand.

Averages, taken over the last 14 days, have 5,850.4 COVID-19 hospital admission levels per day. Hospitals in the state have had 712.9 ventilators in use daily over the last two weeks. Since Monday’s single-day figures are less than both, the rolling average will likely continue to fall, at least for the next few days.

The rolling daily average is 634.4 for available intensive care unit beds statewide, with 86.4% of adult intensive care beds occupied. Again, both figures are improvements from peak rates last month. The ICU bed availability bottomed out Dec. 21 at 571.1, with an occupancy rate of about 88%.

THE HERALD staff contributed to this article.

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