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Allegheny County's COVID-19 numbers remain 'stubbornly high'

Dr. Debra Bogen.
Allegheny County

Daily coronavirus case numbers remain stubbornly high, according to the head of Allegheny County’s health department. This is puzzling because rates have dropped in other parts of the country.

“Frankly that worries me,” said Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen Bogen at a Wednesday press conference. “At the health department we've been asking ourselves, why haven't our cases dropped?... And unfortunately, we don't have any special reason other than we have let our guard down, and the delta variant is a highly contagious virus.”

In light of the approaching holiday season, Bogen urges people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, wear face masks, and practice physical distancing.

Infectious disease experts, epidemiologists and public health officials all say the best way to slow the spread of delta variant is through vaccination. For this reason, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate earlier this fall that says any county employee who is unvaccinated by Dec. 1 risks termination.

Now he’s asking other employers to do the same and require workers to be vaccinated by Jan. 1, which will be more than a year since when the vaccine first became available in the U.S.

“We know how safe they are. We know how effective they are. And we know how they have stopped the spread of this deadly disease,” he said.

Commonwealth Court ruling

Earlier on Wednesday, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court found that the Wolf Administration's school mask mandate was “void and unenforceable.” However, the court’s decision was put on hold when lawyers for the state Health Department filed an appeal.

Fitzgerald expressed disappointment in the ruling and described the lawsuit as politicalization of a public health crisis.

Fitsgerald said he hopes the state Supreme Court “goes for health, follows the science and keeps the mandate in place.”

Bogen was similarly dismayed, noting that masks are a proven and an effective way of mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

“We really want children to remain in school. And the more cases we have in schools, the more days children will miss in school,” she said. “It's just a numbers game.”

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.