COVID-19 cases in York County decrease, but variants cause concern
COVID-19 cases in York County continue to decline, but local health officials say they're concerned about more contagious variants that have surfaced.
The concerns over the Delta variant, which is believed to be the most contagious variant the country has yet seen, come as Gov. Tom Wolf intends to retire his longstanding mask mandate on Monday.
"We definitely have Delta variant concerns," said Dr. Matt Howie, medical director of the York City Health Bureau. "Its improved ability to spread is a challenge."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking how prevalent the variant is at the state level, but more localized data is unavailable.
While the U.S. as a whole has seen the variant in about 10% of recent cases, according to the CDC, it has been present in only 0.9% of cases in Pennsylvania.
"The potential threat of Delta and all other variants underlines the importance for all eligible people to get fully vaccinated," said state Health Department spokesperson Maggi Mumma.
Meanwhile, York County's COVID-19 case rates continue to decline.
As of Thursday, the county had 38 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14-day period. That's a 51.3% decrease from the previous 14-day period, when the number was 78.
There had been 46,976 total cases and 825 deaths since the outbreak began.
The number of those receiving their first vaccination, though, also has declined.
There were 907 first doses given to county residents per 100,000 people over the past 14 days. That's a 36.7% decrease from the previous 14-day period, when the number was 1,433.
There were 27,173 county residents who were partially vaccinated and 186,242 who were fully vaccinated.
Vaccinations, social distancing and mask wearing have all been said to have contributed to the decrease in cases.
However, as of Monday, Pennsylvania residents will no longer have to wear a mask, according to Wolf. The state will still follow CDC guidelines.
For those who aren't fully vaccinated, the CDC states masks are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation.
Even those who are fully vaccinated, though, still must obey rules of local businesses, workplaces and hospitals.
Local businesses and hospitals differ in how they plan to handle their mask policies following the eased mitigation measures.
Rite Aid, for example, beginning July 4 will allow customers to shed their face masks if they are fully vaccinated, said Rite Aid spokesperson Chris Savarese.
Walmart, Costco, Kroger, Walgreens, CVS, Home Depot and Target already have that same policy, according to the AARP.
WellSpan Health, however, will still require patients and visitors to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status. That will also remain the case for staff in any patient case areas.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.