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New COVID cases again down, but virus deaths up

The number of new COVID-19 cases was again low on Tuesday, but deaths were up.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 14 new cases and three new deaths. The total number of COVID-related deaths in the county stood at 56 on Tuesday.

That number is a match for the number provided by Warren County Coroner Melissa Zydonik on Tuesday.

There have been 1,787 cases to date. Of those, 1,478 are confirmed and 309 are probable.

According to the department, about 4.5 percent of the county population has had COVID.

There were just over 1,000 ‘active’ cases in the county, according to the department’s procedures.

There were 781 cases in the county as of Dec. 13 – 30 days ago. The department considers cases that do not result in death to be recovered after 30 days.

The department’s report for Warren General Hospital indicates that there was one more COVID-positive patient (30) than on Monday, with none on ventilators, and none in ICU.

State-wide the department’s statistics indicate under 7,000 new cases.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted a briefing Tuesday regarding Operating Warp Speed – the federal partnership involved in developing and distributing COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our responsibility is to make sure all vaccine that is releasable… gets out to the American people,” Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gustave Perna said.

“A month ago is when we started delivering vaccine around the country,” Perna said. “Four weeks later, we have made significant progress.”

“The cadence… has become a remarkable feat for all of us,” he said. “We have sent over 25 million doses of the vaccines to 16,000 locations.”

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said he expects to see distribution of 1 million doses of vaccine per day in a week to ten days. For the past four days, the distribution has been at 700,000 per day, he said.

He and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield said it is time to provide vaccines to everyone 65 and over and everyone with factors that put them at high risk.

“We’re telling states that they should open to all of their most vulnerable people,” Azar said. “They should open vaccinations to all people age 65 and over… and all people with a co-morbidity.”

Azar said there are more doses available to people in Phase 1A than there are people in that phase who will accept the vaccine. “Supply exceeds demand from those groups,” he said. “It is time to move on to the next phase of this campaign.”

“The guidelines… were never meant to be, ‘finish the first phase, then move on,'” Redfield said.

He “strongly recommended the vaccination move on to those individuals 65 and over” and those with a co-morbidity who meet the minimum age for the vaccines.

Redfield described moving forward with vaccinating those groups as “a key strategy to maintain hospital resilience.”

Azar assured listeners that there would be second doses available but said, “we are releasing the entire supply we have, rather than holding second doses in reserve. Our approach continues to ensure that there will be a second dose available for those who receive a first dose.”

Azar and Redfield stressed the importance of continuing mitigation measures including masks, distancing, and hand-washing.

“This is a time that we call on all Americans to be vigilant in the mitigation steps,” Redfield said.

The end of the need for those measures could be in sight.

“There’s strong light at the end of that tunnel as we enter March,” he said.

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