Levine Cites Christmas Travel for Coronavirus Case Increase; Talks Vaccine Plan

Gov. Tom Wolf greets Dr. Rachel Levine in August. They discussed the rising coronavirus numbers Friday as well as the roll out of the vaccines. (Flickr/Office of Gov. Tom Wolf)

By Patrick Abdalla

January 8, 2021

The state is adapting its plan, adding new groups of eligible people to Phase 1.

The number of coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania is rising again.

And, state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Friday, it’s because of the travel that people did over Christmas.

Health officials announced 10,178 new cases have been reported in Pennsylvania Friday. The last three days have seen at least 9,000 cases each day and Pennsylvania has now had 703,265 cases since the pandemic began. An additional 215 new deaths were reported Friday, bringing the state’s total to 17,395.

However, Gov. Tom Wolf and Levine struck an optimistic tone at times because of developments with the vaccines that are available.

“A future without COVID-19 is coming,” Wolf said.

Wolf and Levine addressed the news reported just minutes before the press conference began that the Biden Administration will release all of the vaccines available and not hold any back for second doses. 

The Trump administration had been holding second doses back to ensure everyone got a second dose. 

The Biden decision would lead to more people being vaccinated earlier. Levine said it must mean that the Biden administration is confident the manufacturers can provide those second doses later. 

“I think that that’s fine as long as that second dose will be available,” she said.

Levine said she would not like to see the United States do what the United Kingdom has been doing, which is foregoing the second dose.

“We do not agree with what’s being done in the United Kingdom,” she said. “We need to follow the science.”

So far, at least 235,000 people in Pennsylvania have gotten their first dose of the vaccine. The number is lower than the actual number, Levine said, because the reporting lag from hospitals is about 24 hours and about 72 hours from long-term care facilities.

“We have seen no severe reactions in Pennsylvania,” Levine said. 

The state is also following the CDC guidelines and updating its vaccination plan. A new group has been added to the phase 1 roll out.

Phase 1C will include people 16-64 with underlying health issues such as cancer or heart conditions. It also includes, among others, people who work in transportation, public safety, the legal profession, the media, and federal, state, county, and local government.  

Levine also said she would like to see a national effort to educate people on the safety and necessity of the vaccines.

Wolf said he wants 65% of the state population to be vaccinated before he rolls back the rest of the state’s mitigation efforts.

“I don’t know if that’s two months away, or three months away, or six months away,” he said. “But I think right now we see it coming because we have the vaccines, that’s not something that we had in March.”


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