PA COVID-19 UPDATE March 7, 2021

Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said this week that, “Our case counts are declining, our hospitalizations are declining, and we are even seeing our death rates declined.  All of that is happening while our test, testing level has stayed steady. So that is a tremendous, I think observance of all of the efforts that Pennsylvanians have taken across-the-board.”

There have been 35,423 new cases in Pennsylvania since PA-ACP’s last update bringing the total case count to 944,196. Statewide percent positivity has decreased to 6.3%. View a breakdown of cases by region, county, gender, ethnicity, etc. here.

This week, Governor Tom Wolf and the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force announced that beginning next week, Pre-K to 12 public and non-public school staff will have an opportunity to be vaccinated with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Wolf administration is collaborating with Intermediate Units (IUs) and other education partners to equitably vaccinate all. More information  below and online. Read more.

Gov. Wolf also signed legislation this week that would prepare the National Guard to Assist with Vaccination Efforts.  More information below and online. Read more.

Weekly Details

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed as of 12:00 a.m., March 5, there were 2,757 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 944,196.

There are 1,628 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 350 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. Most of the patients hospitalized are ages 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average number of hospitalized patients per day is about 4,200 lower than it was at the peak on December 25, 2020. However, the current 14-day average is now also below what it was at the height of the spring peak on May 3, 2020.

Statewide percent positivity for the week of February 19 – February 25 stood at 6.3%.

As of 11:59 p.m. Thursday, March 4, there were 43 new deaths identified by the Pennsylvania death registry, reported for a total of 24,262 deaths attributed to COVID-19. County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Pennsylvania hospitals began receiving shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine the week of Dec. 14 and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine the week of Dec. 21. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine was first allocated to Pennsylvania the week of March 1, and the commonwealth is using it for a special initiative involving educators. Vaccination numbers for Pennsylvania do not include Philadelphia, which is its own jurisdiction, or federal facilities, which are working directly with the federal government.

  • This week, a total of 3,699,180 doses will have been allocated through March 6:

o 336,870 first/single doses will have been allocated this week.

o 189,410 second doses will have been allocated this week.

  • To date, of the 3,699,180 doses allocated through March 6, we have administered 2,777,440 doses total through March 4:

o First/single doses, 88 percent (1,909,291 administered of 2,172,935 allocated)

o Second doses, 57 percent (868,149 administered of 1,526,245 allocated)

There are 113,098 individuals who have a positive viral antigen test and are considered probable cases and 636 individuals who have a positive serology test and either COVID-19 symptoms or a high-risk exposure.  There are 3,926,038 individuals who have tested negative to date.

In licensed nursing and personal care homes, there are 67,687 resident cases of COVID-19, and 13,381 cases among employees, for a total of 81,068 at 1,561 distinct facilities in all 67 counties. Out of total deaths reported to PA-NEDSS, 12,611 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. A county breakdown can be found here. Note that the number of deaths reported to NEDSS is not exactly the same as the COVID-19 related deaths reported by the death registry. The number of deaths among nursing and personal care home residents and employees is taken from the PA-NEDSS death data, as this information is not available in the death registry data.

Approximately 25,126 of our total cases are among health care workers.

PA teachers to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination.

Plenty of lobbying by teachers’ unions and others appears to have done the trick as Gov. Tom Wolf formally announced on Wednesday that schoolteachers and other school staff will be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Teachers and other school personnel in the state’s vaccination plan had been included in the Phase 1B category as all the available science suggests that there’s no need for all school personnel to be vaccinated before teachers return, in person, to the classroom.

“… the preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring insofar as the type of rapid spread that was frequently observed in congregate living facilities or high-density worksites has not been reported in education settings in schools,” wrote three federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers in a piece published in late January in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That prompted CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in early February to state that vaccinating teachers is not a prerequisite for continuing safe in-person instruction in schools.

However, teachers’ unions across the nation have fought any return to full-time, in-person classroom instruction without being vaccinated, while states, including Pennsylvania, continue to gradually work to vaccinate individuals seriously at risk of severe results should they contract COVID-19.

Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration appear to be trying to minimize any potential blowback regarding taking vaccine doses away from the elderly and at-risk with a plan to use Pennsylvania’s allocation of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the vaccination of teachers and school staff members. That would leave intact the state’s current plans to use the allocated doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to serve the millions of high-risk individuals within the Phase 1A category.

Gov. Wolf signs into law legislation to allow PA National Guard to assist with vaccination efforts.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed into law legislation that will allow the Pennsylvania National Guard to help with the state’s current or future efforts to distribute and administer vaccinations.

“The number of vaccines the Commonwealth receives will be increasing exponentially in the coming weeks, especially with the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” said bill sponsor Rep. Tim O’Neal, R-Washington. “With this new law, I am confident we are now in a better position to vaccinate the Commonwealth’s residents in a more orderly and accelerated pace.”

“This bill will support the National Guard and other state agencies in the planning process for community vaccination clinics once supply of COVID-19 vaccines increases,” said Wolf in his bill signing announcement. “This service will help further expedite getting vaccine to Pennsylvanians across the state.”

And while COVID-19 prompted the new law, it applies to more than the current situation, permitting the National Guard, in conjunction with the state Health Department, to develop plans for the establishment and operation of regional sites for community distribution and administration of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and supplies, and vaccines for a virus.

Within 45 days of Wednesday’s signing, the National Guard will be required to coordinate with the Health Department and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to develop plans to establish and operate COVID-19 vaccination sites across the Commonwealth.

Additionally, within 45 days, the governor must submit to the General Assembly a report explaining the administration’s plans to incorporate the National Guard into its overall vaccination strategy while taking into account vaccine availability and other vital ongoing missions. According to the legislation, the report is to include the availability and capacity of guard units for vaccinations and deployment to skilled nursing facilities to combat outbreaks, current and anticipated allocation of COVID-19 vaccines, and federal guidance on use of the guard for vaccination efforts.