What to Know
- Pennsylvania is marking a milestone, with 50% of adults statewide now considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The Wolf administration says it will lift an order requiring unvaccinated people to wear masks in public once 70% of Pennsylvanians aged 18 and older are fully vaccinated, meaning at least two weeks beyond their last required dose.
- The pace of vaccinations has been slowing for weeks. State Health Department data shows Pennsylvania ordered only about a quarter of the vaccine doses to which it was entitled last week, signaling a steep drop-off in demand.
Pennsylvania marked a milestone on Thursday, with 50% of adults statewide now considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Wolf administration says it will lift an order requiring unvaccinated people to wear masks in public once 70% of Pennsylvanians aged 18 and older are fully vaccinated, meaning at least two weeks beyond the last required dose. Beam, the health secretary, said she expects the state to reach that mark in several weeks' time.
The percentage stood at 50% on Thursday, according to federal data, while 68% of adults have had at least one shot.
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The pace of vaccinations has been slowing for weeks, with most people eager to get the shot already having done so. Health Department data provided to The Associated Press shows Pennsylvania ordered only about a quarter of the vaccine doses to which it was entitled last week, signaling a steep drop-off in demand.
“From here on in, each shot is going to be hard-earned, and that’s not a challenge we’re going to shy away from,” Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said.
She cited the importance of community organizations to help identify vaccine-hesitant people and persuade them to get the shot.
In rural Bradford County, where vaccinations are lagging badly, the Guthrie health care network has held pop-up clinics to make the shots more convenient, offers walk-in appointments, and has primary care doctors talk to their patients about the vaccines' safety and effectiveness.
"We know that people have fears about the vaccine, and we know that's more common in geographic areas like ours," Dr. Michael Scalzone, chief quality officer at Guthrie, said in a phone interview. “There still remains some controversy in some of the communities, and that's where we think education is important.”
Statewide, more than 65,000 people a day are getting vaccinated, according to the Health Department, down from an average of more than 100,000 people per day a month ago. That does not include Philadelphia, which runs its own vaccination program and is also reporting lower demand.
The good news: Newly confirmed coronavirus infections are falling rapidly in Pennsylvania — down almost 50% in two weeks — as the weather warms and more people get vaccinated. Hospitalizations are down, too.
Gov. Tom Wolf plans to lift nearly all remaining pandemic restrictions on Memorial Day.
Disaster Declaration Renewed
Wolf on Thursday renewed his pandemic disaster declaration, two days after Pennsylvania voters watered down the chief executive's emergency authority.
Voters approved a pair of constitutional amendments that will give state lawmakers much more power over disaster declarations, to apply whether the emergency is another pandemic or natural disaster.
In a statement Thursday, Wolf said he had been in touch with the General Assembly on another extension, "and we will continue to collaborate on the future of this disaster declaration and any future declarations that become necessary to help Pennsylvanians in the midst of an emergency.”
The emergency declaration relaxes regulations for medical professionals to administer vaccines, gives the state access to federal emergency aid and streamlines National Guard deployments, among other things, his office said.