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COVID-19 cases likely to remain high in Pennsylvania as the holiday season approaches

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

COVID-19 cases are as high as they have ever been in Pennsylvania. The one exception is the coronavirus surge during the holidays last year.

The state’s daily COVID-19 case numbers have plateaued in recent weeks, averaging between 3,000 to 5,000 a day.

Public health experts expect cases to remain high through the holiday season.

According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, 81 percent of ICU beds in the state are filled right now – with about 1 in 5 of those patients sick with COVID-19.

Deaths due to COVID-19 have also leveled off – averaging about 65 a day for the past week in the state.

This week, York County surpassed 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 – the 8th county to hit that mark.

Advancements in therapeutics, like monoclonal antibodies, have helped keep patients out of the hospital.

But the virus is still spreading substantially in parts of Pennsylvania as Thanksgiving approaches.

Dr. Alison Brodginski, an infectious disease specialist with Geisinger Health, says the current wave is being driven by the colder weather and the high number of people who are still not vaccinated.

She also says the vaccines’ effectiveness is decreasing among those who received their shot over six months ago.

“You put a population with waning immunity and mix it with a really, really highly transmissible variant – and this is why we’re seeing these hot spots,” she said.

Brodginski is encouraging everyone eligible to get a booster shot.

She also recommends visiting the CDC’s holiday tips page for best practices.

“There’s never going to be a zero risk, if you’re coming around someone who’s outside of your own household. But, there’s a safer way to approach it,” Brodginski said.

The tips include getting tested before family gatherings, making sure everyone in the group is fully vaccinated and avoiding crowed indoor spaces.

Now that kids age 5 to 11 can also get their shot, that’s giving Dr. David Rubin, who leads the COVID-19 modeling group at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, hope that the worst days of the pandemic are behind us.

“I’ve got cautious optimism, particularly in highly vaccinated areas right now,” he told NPR.

He said vaccination could make a substantial difference in controlling cases as families get together for the holidays.

Read more from our partners, WITF.