Pa. coronavirus update: Philly adds those age 65 and over to Phase 1B

A National Guard member vaccinates someone against COVID-19 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center

Essential city workers are among the first to be served by FEMA's mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Ask us about COVID-19: What questions do you have about the coronavirus and vaccines?

Pennsylvania Department of Health officials on Wednesday reported 2,549 new COVID-19 cases, raising the statewide total to 955,730. Officials reported 43 additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 24,439.

Pennsylvania’s positivity rate for the week ending March 4 stood at 5.7%.

The state has also reached a milestone of more than 1 million Pennsylvanians fully vaccinated.

In Montgomery County, health officials reported 810 new COVID-19 cases, including four new fatalities. In all, the county has recorded 47,891 COVID-19 cases and 1,235 related deaths.

Philly makes significant change to Phase 1B eligibility

Because of greater vaccine supply, Philadelphia has expanded Phase 1B eligibility to include people age 65 and older.

The decision comes after a recommendation from the city’s Vaccine Advisory Committee as a way to align the distribution system with the suburban counties and the rest of Pennsylvania. Previously, age eligibility for Phase 1B in the city was limited to people age 75 years or older.

The change is effective immediately. People age 65 to 74 can register through the city’s vaccine form and are eligible to be invited for an appointment.

Other than the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, all other vaccine providers in Philadelphia require an appointment.

Wednesday marked one year since the city’s first announced case of COVID-19.

 

Montco officials on vaccine supply, clinics

Montgomery County health officials on Wednesday marked a full year of the county battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, called the milestone a somber one, but said the county remains hopeful for the future amid mass vaccination efforts.

Arkoosh explained that the county hoped to open its third mass vaccination site near Willow Grove Mall by next week, but a lack of vaccine supply has extended that timeline.

Montco currently vaccinates an average of 5,000 people per week, Arkoosh said. At full capacity, the Willow Grove site could administer 4,000 to 5,000 vaccine doses per day.

Earlier this week, suburban Philadelphia officials accused state health officials of withholding information about vaccine distribution, leading to confusion and line-skipping. Pennsylvania’s Department of Health called these claims “false.”

In a letter from county commissioners, council members, and state legislators representing Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties, officials alleged that collar counties are being short-changed in their vaccine allotment. They say this shortage has led to residents “shopping around” for vaccination sites across the region.

Registered nurse Pat DeHorsey vaccinates physician assistant Dana Steinter
Registered nurse Pat DeHorsey vaccinates physician assistant Dana Steinter at the Montgomery County COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Blue Bell, Pa. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Arkoosh explained the asks of the collar counties: for full transparency over state data to understand how decisions are being made regarding vaccine allocation, for a plan to serve undersupplied counties, and for a commitment to not let counties move on to phase 1B until the needs of phase 1A recipients have been met.

“We’re just asking for simple transparency here,” Arkoosh said of the ongoing dispute.

Outside of the county’s allotted vaccine doses, the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit will receive a separate vaccine supply to inoculate teachers and school staff. The effort, which will utilize the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, is in partnership with the state health department and National Guard.

Officials on Wednesday also spoke to recently issued guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on what fully vaccinated people should consider when interacting with others.

Arkoosh urged vaccinated residents to continue virus mitigation efforts, such as wearing well-fitted face masks in public and physically distancing with unvaccinated people from multiple households.

Montco residents who need support pre-registering for a COVID-19 vaccine can call 833-875-3967.

WHYY’s Laura Benshoff contributed reporting.

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