As COVID-19 cases drop and restrictions relax, health officials remain concerned

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
 City of York Medical Director Dr. Matt Howie speaks at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. The recent uptick in positive COVID-19 testing, specifically at York County Prison, was addressed. Dawn J. Sagert photo

COVID-19 case counts in York County are at their lowest levels since October, but the state's decision to relax mitigation measures is causing concern among some health officials.

Nearly all of Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictions were lifted on Monday. But what's more concerning is how the number of people wearing face coverings could dwindle after the governor lifts his mask mandate by June 28, said Dr. Matt Howie, medical director of the York City Health Bureau.

“I think we’re turning a new chapter,” Howie said. “The summer is a new chapter of this book. But we have not completed the book. I’m still very concerned."

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As of Thursday morning, there were 139 cases reported per 100,000 over a 14-day period in York, according to state Health Department data.

That matches the 14-day case count reported on Oct. 10, which took place before a winter surge in cases spread throughout the state.

Howie said the decrease in cases is a testament to the work that has been done by health officials and residents.

But on top of his primary concern of mask-wearing, Howie suggested there are other factors that could lead to another surge.

While COVID-19 spreads less aggressively in the summer, it is more active in the fall and winter months, he said. In addition, new strains of COVID-19 threaten the efficacy of vaccines.

"It is difficult to predict what will happen over the coming months, but public health officials will remain vigilant in efforts to combat the virus and will continue to assess trends throughout the summer and into the fall,” said state Health Department spokesperson Maggi Mumma.

State officials have said the mask mandate will remain in effect until June 28 at the latest — even if the state doesn't meet its goal of having 70% of residents fully vaccinated.

That's not out of the realm of possibility, as 44% of the state is fully vaccinated, according to an analysis by The New York Times. In York County, 39% of residents are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, fewer and fewer people are getting vaccinated.

As of Thursday morning, 766 patients per 100,000 people received their first vaccine dose over the past seven days in York County, according to state Health Department data.

That's the lowest number of people to receive their first shots in that same time period since Jan. 11, when the number was 702.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.