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Allegheny County COVID-19 Cases Highest In More Than Two Months

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Katie Blackley
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90.5 WESA
People wait in line for a coronavirus test at a mobile unit run by the North Side Christian Health Center.

Another 586 coronavirus cases were reported in Allegheny County Friday. This is the highest number of new daily infections reported in more than two months. 

Public health and infectious disease experts say more transmissible variants and a lack of adherence to mitigation precautions are to blame. Sarah Boden reports that despite the fact that the majority of county residents who are 65 and older have received the COVID-19 vaccination, hospitalizations are also on the rise. The number of people on ventilators has increased, as well.

UPMC encourages monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 patients

UPMC is encouraging people recently infected with the coronavirus to consider monoclonal antibody treatment, which is currently under Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  

Sarah Boden reports this is the same treatment received by President Donald Trump after he contracted COVID-19. It gives a patient a one-time intravenous infusion of antibodies that block the virus from entering and then replicating in a person’s cells.   

“Our results show that for our patients if they get treated within four days of symptom onset that’s when they have the best results. So really the earlier for this therapy the better,” said clinical pharmacist Erin McCreary.  

UPMC says that the treatment cuts the risk of hospitalization or death by nearly 70%. While data have not yet been peer reviewed, UPMC is making them publicly available.  

As this time the FDA has only authorized the treatment for people who are 65 or older, and those who are 55+ who have various medical conditions, like diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Patients 12-17 can also receive the monoclonal antibodies if they have certain health risks, including sickle cell disease. 

Meanwhile, the health care system reports that it has administered nearly 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses. And it says more than half of these vaccinations went to people who are not affiliated with UPMC. The medical system says it administers up 35,000 doses a week. But that it has the capacity to triple this number if supplied with enough vaccine.

Pregnant people can schedule the vaccine in upcoming weeks

Pregnant people can schedule a COVID-19 vaccine at two upcoming UPMC Magee-run clinics. The appointment-only clinics will take place Wednesday, March 31st and Thursday, April 8th. The CDC has prioritized pregnant people as high risk and they are eligible under Pennsylvania’s Phase 1-A.

UPMC is holding a COVID-19 vaccination clinic Saturday at Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg

The company plans to administer 1,000 inoculations.  Appointments are required - no walk-in requests are permitted. 

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Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
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90.5 WESA
A bag given to patients for COVID-19 testing on the North Side.

Nearly 900,000 Pennsylvanians are at risk of having their utilities shut off next week

The state Public Utility Commission, however, says many people may not be aware they qualify for help. Margaret J. Krauss reports the commission is urging individuals and small business owners to call their utility companies and ask about assistance and repayment programs. In mid-March the PUC required all the utilities they regulate to offer more options for customers to catch up on missed payments.

Latest numbers:

Allegheny County:

  • 586 new cases
  • 9 new deaths

Pennsylvania:

  • 4,927 new cases
  • 1,717 hospitalizations
  • 358 patients in the ICU
  • 36 new deaths
  • 1,660,232 people fully vaccinated

Penn State detects new coronavirus variant

Leaders at Penn State and from the surrounding community are voicing concerns about the recent uptick in coronavirus cases and a new, more infectious variant found in State College. WPSU’s Min Xian reports State College Mayor Ron Filippelli says police have been responding to more gatherings recently and he sees relaxation of precautions across the board.

“This is not a matter of students being more laxed or community members or visitors, it’s about everyone,” Filippelli said. 

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been rising in recent weeks on the Penn State University Park campus and in Centre county. University President Eric Barron says the nicer weather and ongoing vaccinations are not reasons to let the guard down when it comes to masking and physical distancing. 

“Our wastewater monitoring confirmed this week that we have detected the presence of the B.1.1.7 variant,” Barron said. “That’s not a surprise given its presence elsewhere in the country, including Pennsylvania, for a while now.”

The variant is more contagious and up to 50% more deadly. 

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