HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Even though temperatures are rising, COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania are not decreasing.
Today, Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Denise Johnson said this upward trend is due to new, highly transmissible Omicron variants.
“I think we keep thinking COVID is over, but we’ve had several new variants that have come on the scene, that have been more highly transmissible,” said Dr. Johnson.
This afternoon, at a COVID-19 “safe summer vaccination event” in Harrisburg, Dr. Johnson said she expects cases to rise with more people getting together, traveling, and enjoying the summer months.
“I think that getting close together and these really highly transmissible variants, we certainly do expect to see more infections. But the key is to keep people from being really sick and dying from COVID and the key is vaccination,” said Johnson.
According to the PA Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard, in April there were an average of roughly 1,300 new cases per day. This month, it’s up. Nearly 4,000 new cases were recorded this Tuesday.
With more people testing at home, the number is likely higher because those results are not recorded.
“There definitely is a lot more home testing and those home tests are not recorded into our system. So, we definitely anticipate that there are more tests than are being recorded,” said Johnson.
Dr. Johnson remains cautiously optimistic because of the tools available for Pennsylvanians, like vaccines and boosters. She encourages those who are eligible to get up to date with a vaccine or booster.
“With this Omicron variant, we’re seeing people who have been previously infected getting infected again. But what we know is that now, as opposed to in the past, we have great tools to protect ourselves,” said Johnson.
When asked about the efficacy of vaccines with current variants and people who have been vaccinated but still got infected, Johnson says the main goal is preventing hospitalization and severe infection.
“The vaccines were meant to protect us from severe infection and hospitalization and death. The way the vaccines work, don’t protect you from every infection,” said Johnson. “I think that individuals who have been vaccinated and have an infection but don’t have to be hospitalized shouldn’t see that as a failure. That means the vaccine is working,” she added.
Dr. Johnson also said today that although there is an uptick in hospitalizations, it’s nothing like the Delta surge or the Omicron surge earlier this year.
“Although we’ve seen an uptick in hospitalizations, we’re seeing nothing like the surge that we had even in Delta and certainly not like the Omicron surge that we had before,” said Johnson.
When asked about individuals who’ve chosen not to get vaccinated, the Acting Health Secretary says that’s their choice.
“Certainly, there are going to be individuals who decide for whatever reason, they won’t get vaccinated and, you know, that’s their decision to make,” said Johnson. “But we want to give the opportunity to those who haven’t because of convenience or some other reason, but still want to get vaccinated, to get vaccinated. We will make every opportunity available for those who want to get vaccinated,” she added.