The following is the latest COVID-19 information from Pennsylvania’s state government as of 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 22.
Department of Health
- The Department of Health has amended the state’s universal face coverings order to align with updated federal CDC guidelines. The amended order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 17, 2021 and will remain in effect until further notice. The new state order addresses activities that fully vaccinated people can resume now, as low risk to themselves, while being mindful of the potential risk of transmitting the virus to others. For further information, see the following resources:
- The Department of Health has outlined temporary plans to get more COVID-19 vaccine to Pennsylvanians and improve transparency and technical resources online. According to officials, “Starting the week of March 22, a focused network of 200-300 providers can expect to see more first doses of vaccine arriving and will be assured of a steady supply for the next several weeks.” In addition:
The temporarily focused network of providers was selected following an extensive review, which included a survey of all providers and mapping out an initial view of the provider network to receive focused allocations of first vaccine doses over the next few weeks. Providers were selected based on:
- geographic reach,
- access for residents,
- equity across demographics,
- vaccine throughput, and
- estimated demand.
The selection process took into account the ability to administer a high volume of first doses within seven days of delivery while maintaining equity across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines as well as the ability to capture and report vaccine administration data within 24 hours.
The temporarily narrowed network of vaccine providers is designed to reach people with different needs and preferences using a mix of provider types, including:
- Federally Qualified Health Centers, and
- public health providers.
Learn more from a Department of Health news release.
That same March 19 news release states that
As proof that the pace of vaccinations is accelerating, yesterday the CDC ranked Pennsylvania number two in the nation for the number of doses administered per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.
- The Secretary of Health has issued an order requiring all skilled nursing facilities to complete an initial vaccine needs assessment via an online survey form. The survey must be completed by 12:00 a.m. on March 23, 2021 and will be used to inform additional COVID-19 vaccine support efforts.
- The Department of Health has issued a health advisory on the importance of developing travel history collection procedures that include elements specific to the risk of highly transmissible health care-associated organisms such as COVID-19 and others.
Department of Health – by the numbers
- The number of new COVID-19 cases has fallen significantly since November and December but the decline has ended and the daily numbers now generally are higher than they have been in recent weeks.
- Despite the slightly rising number of new COVID-19 cases the daily death totals continue to decline.
- For the week from March 12 through March 18 the state’s overall COVID-19 test positivity rate was 6.5 percent, up from 5.7 percent last week.
- The numbers of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19, in hospital ICUs with COVID-19, and on ventilators being treated for COVID-19 have all risen slightly in the past week.
- Currently, 24 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 21 percent of medical/surgical beds, 11 percent of pediatric ICU beds, 30 percent of pediatric beds, and 37 percent of airborne isolation units.
- As of March 22 the state’s vaccine dashboard shows that nearly 1.4 million Pennsylvanians have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 1.5 million have received both doses of a vaccine; the latter increase is 19 percent in the past week. These numbers do not include Philadelphia, which operates its own COVID-19 vaccination program. The vaccine dashboard shows vaccine totals by county.
- Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health reports that as of March 20, 580,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the city: 419,000 first doses and 161,000 second doses.
- Thus, while the state has completed vaccination of approximately 13.4 percent of its non-Philadelphia population, Philadelphia has completed vaccination of only about ten percent of its population.
Around the State
- The Berks County COVID-19 Response Task Force has published a report on the county’s response to the pandemic. WFMZ radio shares some of the report’s findings. Find the report itself here.
- In separate stories, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on the Allegheny County Health Department’s expansion of its criteria for eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines and Excela Health’s opening of a clinic in an empty building in North Huntingdon (Westmoreland County) where it expects to give about 2000 vaccines a day.
- Philadelphia, too, has expanded eligibility for vaccines, as the Philadelphia Inquirer explains.
- Monday is the last day Philadelphia residents living in underserved zip codes can walk up and receive a COVID-19 vaccine at FEMA’s mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties are at odds with the Pennsylvania Department of Health over whether to establish a single mass vaccination site for the four counties or continue their current focus on local vaccination sites. The Philadelphia Inquirer tells the story.
- Whether small pharmacies are engaged in administering vaccines appears to depend on where they are located. While the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that “Small pharmacies ‘beyond frustrated’ as Pennsylvania locks them out of vaccine process,” the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that 300 miles away, “More Philly pharmacies are carrying COVID-19 vaccine, offering a welcome alternative.”
Department of Human Services
DHS has issued a Medical Assistance bulletin announcing the addition of CPT code M0245 for the use of the unapproved monoclonal antibody therapies bamlanivimab and etesevimab when administered together. The medications have received emergency use authorization from the federal FDA.
Resources to Consult
Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
Pennsylvania Department of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention