Philly St. Patrick’s Day Parade canceled again because of COVID-19
Organizers of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade announced Tuesday night that the event this year will be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is now the second year the parade has been canceled due to the coronavirus.
“Despite our love and excitement for our parade and celebration of St. Patrick, the safety and well-being of organizers, volunteers, participants, and spectators is our number one priority at this time,” the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association said in a post on Facebook and its website.
“We will continue with great enthusiasm to plan the 250th Saint Patrick’s Day Parade for March 13, 2022 where we will celebrate Saint Patrick, our Grand Marshal Michael J. Bradley, Jr., and the distinguished members of our Ring of Honor,” the association said.
Statement of the Philadelphia St. Patrick's Day Observance Association Issued January 5, 2021 After heartfelt...
N.J. clarifies priority for vaccinations after website woes
New Jersey launched a website people can use to pre-register to receive coronavirus vaccines, but officials asked members of the public who are not healthcare workers to hold off on using it for the time being.
The site immediately began experiencing crashes and delays due to high traffic, a reflection of what health officials have predicted will be high demand for the vaccine.
Some employees of hospitals don’t need to use the system, because they can receive vaccinations at work, but Donna Leusner of the state department of health said that about two-thirds of the state’s healthcare workers work in other settings like urgent care centers, doctors’ offices and surgery centers.
The state will announce the opening of new phases of the vaccine rollout as the doses become available for essential workers, older adults, and other members of the public over the next few weeks and months, Leusner said.
Residents who sign up on the website will be pre-registered, and as the vaccine is approved for those different tiers of the population, people will receive e-mails letting them know they can make appointments.
Fauci: U.S. could soon give 1 million vaccinations a day
The United States could soon be giving at least a million COVID-19 vaccinations a day despite the sluggish start, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday, even as he warned of a dangerous next few weeks as the coronavirus surges.
The slow pace is frustrating health officials and a desperate public alike, with only about a third of the first supplies shipped to states used as of Tuesday morning, just over three weeks into the vaccination campaign.
“Any time you start a big program, there’s always glitches. I think the glitches have been worked out,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert told The Associated Press.
Vaccinations have already begun speeding up, reaching roughly half a million injections a day, he pointed out.
Chesco, Delco release plans for vaccination rollout
Chester and Delaware Counties released coronavirus vaccination plans Tuesday, including an online survey for residents and workers that will notify them when vaccine doses and appointments are available.
Chester County, which helps administer Delaware County’s coronavirus response, also plans to have vaccine locations throughout the county, eventually including large-scale vaccination sites, mobile and pop-up sites, and clinics at venues such as schools, banquet halls, and churches.
How quickly the vaccine becomes available to a wider pool of people is dependent on how quickly the state receives doses from the federal government. Because of that, the state and counties don’t have a timeline for when the next phase of people will be vaccinated.
“I would love nothing better [than] to be able to give an exact date. It truly, truly depends on how quickly Chester County receives the vaccine doses…We need to receive those vaccine doses to expand who is vaccinating,” said Chester County Health Director Jeanne Casner.
The survey, available on Chester County’s website to both Chester and Delaware County residents, does not register anyone for the vaccine but signs participants up to receive information when the vaccine is available to them. Anyone who believes they qualify to be vaccinated during the next phase, known as 1B, can fill it out. The counties will also use the survey to gauge how many people are interested in getting vaccinated.
A separate survey for healthcare workers not affiliated with a hospital who need to be vaccinated in the first phase is available on the county’s website.
Filling out the survey is not required to get a vaccine. Residents can watch the counties’ websites for updates about when new phases begin.
Statewide, the current phase, 1A, includes healthcare personnel and long-term care residents, along with funeral staff and emergency medical services providers. The next phase, 1B, includes essential workers and people 75 or older in the second phase of coronavirus vaccine distribution. Phase 1C will offer shots to a wider pool of essential workers, people with high-risk medical conditions, and people 65 and older in the third phase.
The state is following federal guidance for the phases. Philadelphia, which is administering its own vaccination plan, could define the phases differently; officials said Monday they were still working on the city’s plan.
Like officials across the state and country, Casner emphasized that there’s just no way to know when everyone will be able to be vaccinated.
”I have to ask you for your patience once again, because we cannot predict how much vaccine the state will be sending to the health department on any given week,” she said. “With each shipment, we will absolutely open up more vaccine appointments.”
However, he added, samples were being sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for analysis.Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, he said, is “working very hard to actually do that genetic analysis in our own lab and that is something you’ll see in the near future.”
It was not immediately clear how many samples were being sent to the CDC or how regularly this process has occurred during the pandemic.
Huff, a nurse who has worked for decades in leadership roles at the state Department of Health and in hospital administration, urged people to remain calm amid increasing anxiety about this new variant, about which much is unknown because scientists have not thoroughly studied it.
”This is not unusual. Every virus that there is continues to change,” Huff said. “But we are being vigilant and obviously the goal right now is to continue to be vigilant, continue to test, and to rapidly get our immunizations, our vaccinations out there as fast as we can.”
As vaccines roll out, Pa. urges people to continue getting tested and cooperate with contact tracing
Pennsylvania health officials on Tuesday stressed that it remains important for people to be tested for the coronavirus and cooperate with contact tracers if they test positive, even as the coronavirus vaccine rolls out to health workers and other vulnerable groups.
With vaccinations underway for frontline health workers and nursing home residents and staff, “we are moving in the right direction to safely get all of us closer to our normal way of life in the new year,” said Michael Huff, the commonwealth’s director of testing and contact tracing, but it will take at least several months for the general public to be vaccinated, and case counts remain higher than they were during the spring surge: “This current reality must serve as a reminder to remain vigilant.”
In the next three months, Huff said he hopes to assess and improve the commonwealth’s ability to do surveillance testing, or regular testing of broader swaths of the population regardless of whether they are symptomatic. This kind of testing is already done in some congregate settings, such as college campuses and nursing homes, but it will soon be critical to expand its reach.
”Once the disease starts to level off and the vaccine becomes more prevalent,” Huff said, “we’ll still need to do that surveillance testing to determine where they may be pockets of disease.” Contact tracing will also continue as long as the coronavirus is circulating, he said. At this time, it remains a “challenge,” he said, with residents still largely hesitant to cooperate, or even just to pick up the phone, if case investigators call after a positive test.
Last week, only about 40% of people who were contacted and sent the commonwealth’s new digital Connect and Protect form provided information about their close contacts, said Lindsey Mauldin, the Department of Health’s special assistant on contact tracing. At the same time, she added, the number of people who refuse to quarantine after exposure has decreased.
As 2021 begins, the commonwealth hopes to expand its contact tracing staff in order to be able to call more people who test positive, she said, and check in with more people more often during their quarantine or isolation periods.
Public Health Director Karyl Rattay said Tuesday that more than 11,000 of the remaining doses have been set aside for second doses, while over 10,000 doses are allocated for mass vaccination events that are scheduled to begin over the next week.
The remaining doses are in hospitals and health systems throughout the state, where Rattay said there has been a hesitancy among some health care workers to take the vaccine out of fear that potential side effects could hamper their holiday celebrations.
“The holidays, have made this a tough way to get started. Logistics are more complicated over the holidays,” Rattay said. “But we really are very confident that the acceleration of vaccinations is going to increase significantly over the coming weeks.”
Rattay also said vaccine shipments from the federal government have often been less than initial estimates, complicating vaccination plans.
“We’re hoping at some point in the future we’ll start to actually receive more than we have planned for,” Rattay said. “And also, it would be nice if we had multiple weeks of projections of what we were going to receive, but we do our best with the information that we receive.”
There’s a racial disparity among vaccine recipients in Philly
African Americans and other racial minorities appear to be underrepresented in the first round of vaccinations administered in Philadelphia, Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday.
The first wave of vaccination doses have been given primarily to healthcare workers, and as of Sunday 28,476 people were reported to have been immunized at Philadelphia health facilities, he said.
Of those for which demographic data was available, 43% were white, 12% were Black, 10% were Asian American, and 10% reported their race as “other.” For another 19%, race was unknown.
The city’s population is about 34% non-Hispanic white, 44% Black, 15% Hispanic, and 8% Asian American, according to Census Bureau estimates.
Farley said one factor is the underrepresentation of African Americans in the healthcare industry. Another, he said, may be a reluctance among some to take the vaccine stemming from a long-standing distrust of how the American healthcare system disproportionately harms Black people.
“We believe that they have less trust in the medical care system. Let me say that that’s completely understandable” given the history of racism in healthcare, Farley said. “But it’s still a problem.”
Farley said he is working with chief medical officers at Philadelphia hospitals to fix the disparities in vaccinations.
“We hope this number will improve as everyone sees others getting vaccinated and doing well,” he said.
More than 2,500 Philadelphians have died of coronavirus infections, Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced Tuesday.
The city on Tuesday reported 36 new deaths from COVID-19, for a total of 2,521 since the pandemic began.
The grim milestone comes as the city also sees its recent decline in new cases come to a halt, likely due to the virus spreading at private gatherings over the holidays, Farley said.
The city also reported 805 newly confirmed cases on Tuesday, for a total of 94,127 since the pandemic reached Philadelphia last spring.
The city had been seeing decreases in the number of new cases and in the rate of positive tests since it tightened its coronavirus safety measures on Nov. 20. But that trend appears to have halted last week, possibly reflecting inter household Christmas gatherings, and Farley said he is worried the numbers could rise further after people infected at New Years celebrations test positive in the coming week.
He is also concerned that college students returning to Philadelphia following their winter vacations could fuel a spike, as they did in the fall.
Most of the spread in the fall occurred at off-campus social events, Farley said, and the city is working with area universities to discourage students from holding similar gatherings this semester.
Delaware schools urged to return to hybrid learning on Jan. 11
After a four-week pause in in-person learning, Delaware Gov. John Carney is now urging all school districts to allow students to return to their classrooms on Jan. 11 if possible, despite COVID-19 numbers exceeding guidelines the state put in place in October.
Karyl Rattay, the director of the state’s Division of Public Health, said during a press briefing Tuesday the metrics the state developed during the fall to recommend school opening levels were no longer an “accurate reflection of the conditions in schools.” Rattay said it was particularly eye-opening that COVID-19 infections in schools didn’t increase when new cases exploded across the state beginning in mid-November.
“We’re just not really seeing spread in the school setting,” Rattay said.
Pennsylvania reports 8,818 new COVID-19 cases, 185 additional deaths
Pennsylvania on Tuesday reported 8,818 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus, a number officials said represented not only cases reported since Monday but also some that were logged Sunday when its data system was undergoing maintenance.
The number of Pennsylvanians being treated for the virus in the commonwealth’s hospitals remains nearly double the spring peak of patients but slightly lower than the record highs recorded last month. On Tuesday, about 5,630 were hospitalized, the state said, and 1,182 of them were in intensive-care units.
Also, 185 additional deaths from virus-related complications were reported.
By the end of the day Monday, at least 144,863 Pennsylvania health workers have received their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine. These numbers do not include vaccines administered in Philadelphia, which has its own allotment. The initial vaccine rollout has been slow, but state and local officials say they expect it to ramp up in the new year.
Since the pandemic began, at least 673,915 Pennsylvanians have been infected with the virus and 16,546 have died.
N.J. health care workers can get COVID-19 vaccinations at some ShopRite pharmacies
Health-care workers can now get COVID-19 vaccinations at 39 ShopRite pharmacies in New Jersey, including six locations in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties under a partnership with the state and federal governments.
“We are excited to be part of the initial stages of this unprecedented public health campaign as we begin vaccinating healthcare workers who are on the front lines in the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jeffrey Mondelli, RPh, vice president of pharmacy, health and beauty at Wakefern Food Corp., the logistics, distribution and merchandising arm for ShopRite stores.
The ShopRite pharmacies were chosen in coordination with the New Jersey State Department of Health, and are following federal guidelines for who is eligible for the injections under the first phase of vaccinations, which are are available by appointment only and while supplies last.
Those who qualify can call to make an appointment (see the list below), go to vaccines.shoprite.com, or download a mobile app to schedule. ShopRite is using the Moderna vaccine, which requires two inoculations several weeks apart. There is no charge.
It’s possible ShopRite will open vaccinations to the general public when that is recommended by the federal CDC or state.
L.A. County first responders told not to bring patients to hospital if survival chances are low
First responders in California’s Los Angeles County have been told not to bring patients to hospitals if their survival chances don’t meet certain criteria, as health-care workers try to dig out from a deluge of COVID-19 patients forcing them to ration care.
Ambulances should not transport cardiac-arrest patients who do not resume spontaneous circulation on the scene, the medical director of the county’s Emergency Medical Services Agency instructed Monday in a memo.
“We are not abandoning resuscitation,” the director, Marianne Gausche-Hill, told CBS Los Angeles after an earlier version of the memo raised alarms. “… We are emphasizing the fact that transporting these patients arrested leads to very poor outcomes. We knew that already, and we just don’t want to impact our hospitals.”
The directive illustrates the dire straits that the county is in as about 21 percent of coronavirus tests come back positive, church gyms transform into field hospitals and ambulances wait hours to offload patients to emergency rooms. Hilda Solis, chair of the county’s Board of Supervisors, described the situation on Monday as “beyond our imagination.”
“Many hospitals have reached a point of crisis and are having to make very tough decisions about patient care,” Christina Ghaly, the county’s health services director, said at a news conference.
She warned that the worst is still to come, with the current surge in patients representing infections that stemmed from Thanksgiving travel. Health officials do not believe they are seeing the cases that resulted from Christmas and New Year’s gatherings yet, Ghaly said.
More than 1.3 million travelers passed through security checkpoints on Monday alone, the most in one day since the pandemic began in March, according to the TSA. More than 1 million travelers have been screened at airports in eight of the last 10 days.
“We do know that there were a large amount of people who did travel but in terms of how many people stayed at home within their household or how many people may have had large or small gatherings, I have no way to assess that,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Monday. “We’ll be watching our numbers really closely to see if there’s a holiday bump or not.”
It can take up to 14 days after exposure for someone to become sick with the virus, and surges are typically reflected in hospitalization and death data several weeks after increases in case counts.
The new stimulus bill now forgives up to eight months of principal and interest payments on Section 7(a) and 504 Microloans from the SBA.
“I thought this debt relief program was an opportunity to provide fast, automatic targeted relief to SBA loan holders,” Sen. Chris Coons (D., Delaware), who was instrumental in creating the initial legislation under the CARES Act and then enhancing it in the new bill, said in a recent podcast interview with me. “This program is simply the federal government paying a company’s debt service.”
Yes, the government will pay for a portion of your debt. So if you want to take advantage of this unprecedented benefit, you’ll need to become more familiar with the SBA’s Section 7(a) and 504 loan programs.
Philadelphia, Delaware to hold coronavirus briefings Tuesday
Officials in Philadelphia and Delaware will offer coronavirus updates on Tuesday. Here’s a schedule of how to watch and stream:
Philadelphia, 1 p.m.: Mayor Jim Kenney, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, live-streamed via the Department of Public Health’s Twitter (@PHLPublicHealth) and Facebook accounts, and broadcast on PHLGovTV (Comcast channels 64 and 1164, and Verizon channels 40 and 41).
Who gets the COVID-19 vaccine next, and when? Pa. and N.J. are working on it.
More than 100,000 coronavirus vaccine doses doses have been administered since late last month in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with thousands more health-care workers and nursing home residents set to get shots this week.
Facing a massive logistical challenge — and amid national concern about the pace of the process — officials in both states and Philadelphia said Monday they were still working on plans to determine how to distribute the vaccine in the next phase.
Only frontline health workers and nursing home residents and staff are currently eligible to be vaccinated in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In the next round of inoculations, the shots will likely go to people 75 and older and various types of essential workers.
Pennsylvania and Philadelphia officials said it was too soon to say exactly how that will roll out. In New Jersey, some residents could be able to make online appointments for the vaccine within “a couple of weeks,” state health officials said, though officials are still assessing who will be in that group.
States are receiving a different number of doses each week, and the delivery schedules also fluctuate, another challenge that slows distribution, said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine. She also said funding from the federal government will be key: Pennsylvania needs money allocated to states in the latest stimulus bill to staff the mass vaccination clinics it plans to open.
Public health officials have estimated it will take months before the general public is vaccinated. Levine advised people to be patient; follow public health guidance; stay in contact with their doctor, if they have one; and follow the news and updates from the health department.
Health officials in Pa. and N.J. preparing for a holiday surge
As Pennsylvania’s restrictions on indoor dining, gyms, and other businesses were lifted Monday, officials said they would be watching the case numbers in the coming two weeks to determine whether holiday travel and gatherings led to a spike.
Pennsylvania reported 4,579 newly confirmed cases on Sunday and 3,226 on Monday. The numbers were “abnormally low” because of maintenance on the state reporting system over the weekend, according to Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine.
On Sunday, 56 deaths were reported, and an additional 66 were reported on Monday. Levine said the death numbers were likely low because reporting slowed during the holidays.
Philadelphia, which won’t allow indoor dining until Jan. 15, announced 1,576 new cases, representing test results reported since Thursday. James Garrow, a spokesperson for the city health department, said the batch of test results received by the city was smaller than usual.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the Department of Health was in touch with hospitals and discussing preparations for a potential mid-January surge.
“If I’m anxious about anything, it’s the 14-day incubation period — post-holiday, post-New Year’s Eve,” Persichilli said. “We will be as prepared as we can be.”
— Justine McDaniel, Allison Steele and Erin McCarthy
U.S. health officials say they plan to stick with two-dose coronavirus regimen
The U.S. government’s top infectious-disease doctor, a leading drug regulator and the Health and Human Services secretary are dismissing suggestions that the second shot of authorized coronavirus vaccines could be delayed to make more doses available faster to more people.
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday evening said it would be “premature” and “not rooted solidly in the available evidence” to change the way the two authorized vaccines are administered.
The statement, by FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Peter Marks, director of the agency’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said the available data “continue to support the use of two specified doses of each authorized vaccine at specified intervals.”
“There really are no data on what happens if you delay the second dose by three months or four months or two months,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday. “We don’t have any idea what the level of protection is and what the durability of protection is. It’s fraught with some danger when you’re making a decision about the regimen you’re going to use when you don’t really have a considerable amount of data.”
The debate about extending vaccine doses is playing out as the United States struggles with administering the doses it already has. More than 15 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data updated Monday morning, but only about 4.5 million have been administered.
Tuesday morning roundup: COVID-19 hospitalizations remain at record highs
COVID-19 hospitalizations across the United States reached a new pandemic high Monday, with more than 128,000 people receiving care, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Even with delays in testing due to holiday closures, the United States is averaging more than 215,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, close to pre-holiday highs.
A Wisconsin pharmacist tried to spoil more than 500 doses of a coronavirus vaccine because he believed they were unsafe, authorities said Monday. It is not clear whether the doses were actually destroyed.
The number of inmates and guards who have tested positive for COVID-19 at American correctional institutions has surpassed 500,000, according to a New York Times database.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered another national lockdown due to a spike in new cases, potentially driven by a coronavirus mutation that is spreading quickly.
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