COVID-19 death rates in York County remain low thanks to vaccines, officials say

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
A sign at a Kansas City, Missouri, hair salon this month informs patrons that masks are required inside. The recent COVID-19 surge has prompted the return of restrictions to try to stop the spread.

Deaths related to COVID-19 remain relatively uncommon in York County, a sign that  vaccinations have made a profound impact on survival rates, according to health officials.

In the last 14 days, only 0.4 residents per 100,000 people have died because of COVID-19 in the county, according to state Health Department data. That's a significant drop since early January, when the county reached its highest death rate of 28 residents per 100,000 people in a 14-day period.

More:A casino and taco tour in York | Morning Newsletter

While a lag in death reporting has been an issue in the past, York County Coroner Pam Gay said that doesn't seem to be the reason for the decrease in those succumbing to COVID-19.

“We believe it is based on the fact that people are just surviving more,” Gay said. “And a lot of the older folks who were dying are vaccinated. Thankfully, we are seeing we can go days without a death — even weeks."

This trend continues even as the county has seen a significant spike in new cases as a result of the surging delta variant.

As of Sunday, 218,302, or more than 48%, of York County residents had been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Those 65 and older by far lead the pack in terms of being fully vaccinated, as nearly 88% are fully inoculated.

More:York City teen's fatal shooting involved marijuana, a fake gun and two real ones: Police

In York County,  those receiving their first vaccine dose continues to increase — a trend health officials say is due to heightened awareness of the highly contagious delta variant.

More than 54% of the county's population has received at least one vaccine dose. As of Friday, 1,067 residents per 100,000 people had received their first dose over the past 14 days. 

That's a 19% increase over the previous 14-day period, when 896 residents per 100,000 people received their first dose.

Dr. Matt Howie, medical director of the York City Bureau of Health, agreed with Gay that older residents' high vaccination rates are linked to a decrease in deaths.

In addition, he said, a shift in COVID-infections to younger residents has also played a role.

"Those individuals typically are healthier on average,” Howie said. “They can tolerate the infection better, even if they aren’t vaccinated.”

Like what you're reading? Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.

There were no new deaths in York County reported, leaving the death toll at 840. The last death was reported on Aug. 2, according to the state Health Department.

However, that data can change over time because some death reports initially deemed as COVID-19-related are later altered, and vice-versa, department officials have said.

On Sunday, there were also 108 additional COVID-19 cases reported in York County, according to the state, continuing an upward trend attributed to the delta variant that brought the total to 48,492 since the outbreak began.

Even though interest in vaccines has increased, case rates continue to rise. As of Friday, York County saw 175 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days.

That's a 165% increase over the previous 14-day period, when there were 66 cases per 100,000 people.

"As Pennsylvanians step up to get vaccinated, we have seen that the three safe and effective vaccines have truly added the best layer of protection available against this virus — even as the COVID-19 delta variant is a threat in our communities," said state Health Department spokesperson Maggi Barton.

As of Sunday, there had been 171,591 patients in the county who tested negative for COVID-19, and a  total  of 5,015,058 negative patients statewide.

Editor's Note: The percentage of individuals who have been vaccinated at the state and county level differ between the state Health Department and the CDC. This is because while the state only counts residents who have been vaccinated in their home county or state, the CDC also includes residents who were vaccinated outside of their county or state of residence. 

In addition, graphs showing the number of daily COVID-19 cases and deaths for York County sometimes have different day-to-day totals than the numbers reported in The York Dispatch’s daily COVID-19 updates because of the way the data is reported to the state Department of Health.

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