The Lead

Acting Philadelphia health commissioner warns residents about COVID-19 Delta variant

By: - June 22, 2021 9:40 am

Love Park in Philadelphia (Photo via Flickr Commons)

By Ayana Jones

PHILADELPHIA — In response to rapidly rising case counts of the new Delta variant in the United Kingdom, acting Health Commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole is calling on city residents to become vaccinated.

In an open letter, she highlighted how the more transmissible Delta variant is causing case counts to surge again in the United Kingdom, increasing hospitalizations and hitting young people hard.

“About 10 percent of U.S. cases are now Delta variant,” Bettigole wrote “Given the rate at which it has increased in the U.K. and in the U.S., we should expect the majority of infections to be Delta variant by late July. And that could mean another big increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations in Philadelphia. It could mean that, but it doesn’t have to.”

“The good news, really the amazing news, is that people who are fully vaccinated are protected against this variant. But people who aren’t vaccinated at all, and people who only got one dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, are in danger,” she continued.

“This variant is putting young, healthy people in the hospital at rates we have not seen before with other COVID-19 variants. And young adults are the group in Philadelphia with the lowest rate of vaccination,” she concluded.

Bettigole said people aren’t fully protected until two weeks after their last dose of vaccine. So if they become vaccinated now, they could be safe by that late July date when the Delta variant hits.

Bettigole’s push to encourage people to get vaccinated comes as Philadelphia achieved the target of 70% adults getting vaccinated.

“In early May, President Biden set an ambitious goal for 70 percent of adults to get at least one COVID shot by July Fourth, and I’m very proud that Philadelphia has achieved this target with several weeks to spare,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.

“We will not be satisfied until all eligible Philadelphians get this life saving vaccine, but I wish to take a moment to thank the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, other city agencies, and the many partners who have helped us to get to this point. This milestone is also due in large part to the Philadelphians who care about taking care of themselves, their families, and their communities,” the statement reads.

On Monday, the Health Department reported an additional 14,711 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Philadelphia since last reported on June 17.

This brings the total number of fully vaccinated Philadelphians to at least 693,885, and the number of city residents with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to at least 874,278.

Currently, 55.9 percent of Philadelphia adults are fully vaccinated, and 70.4 percent of Philadelphia adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

In the last two weeks, 1 percent of COVID-19 tests in Philadelphia have come back positive. Thus far during the pandemic, 144,784 Philadelphians have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and 3,722 have succumbed to the virus. During the last two weeks, Philadelphia averaged 30 new cases of COVID-19 per day.

Get vaccinated at the Unity Cup Draw

On Tuesday, members of the public can get their COVID-19 vaccine at the 2021 Unity Cup Draw event from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Lloyd Hall Recreation Center. Everyone 12 and older is eligible, people do not need an appointment, and the vaccine is free.

Philly Counts, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, the Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Health Department are committing to sustained vaccine outreach at Unity Cup events through a community immunity awareness-building campaign over the summer months, leading up to pop-up clinics at all of the games, to provide the immigrant community information and tools to make an informed decision about vaccination.

Philly Vax Sweepstakes has second drawing

With the end of the first drawing of the Philly Vax Sweepstakes, the team has randomly selected another of the least vaccinated ZIP codes in Philadelphia to be the selected ZIP code for the second drawing.

The selected ZIP code for the second Philly Vax Sweepstakes drawing is 19133. On July 6, 12 more vaccinated Philadelphians will be chosen, six from 19133 and six from the rest of the city.

Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared. 

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