Pa. Health official: Super Bowl Sunday isn’t going to be very super this year

    Healthcare professional in protective gloves & workwear holding & organising a tray of COVID-19 vaccine vials. The professional is carrying out researches on COVID-19 vaccine in laboratory (Getty Images)

    If you’re thinking about heading out this weekend for a Super Bowl party, don’t, a top state health official said Friday.

    “It’s an unofficial holiday this weekend, people should avoid small gatherings,” state Health Department Senior Adviser Lindsey Mauldin said during an online briefing. With people waiting for vaccines, and the state still struggling to resolve distribution issues, “Super Bowl parties will look different.”

    Sunday’s match-up between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers comes as the Wolf administration has found itself playing defense amid a rising tide of bipartisan criticism of the state’s faltering vaccine distribution regime.

    The state is currently ranked 47 among 59 states and U.S. territories for the number of vaccine doses it’s administered relative to its population, federal data show.

    Officials were grilled by legislative panels in the state House and Senate this week, with acting Health Secretary Allison Beam facing three hours of pointed questioning from a state Senate committee on Thursday. On Friday, the state House unanimously approved a bill that would mobilize the state’s National Guard to aid in vaccine distribution.

    Speaking to reporters Friday, Mauldin stressed that the agency is doing all it can to distribute vaccines, even as she acknowledged the distribution issues. Through Friday, the agency had vaccinated more than 1.1 million people, the Health Department said in a statement.

    Through midday Friday, the Health Department confirmed  4,688 additional positive cases of COVID-19, for a statewide total of 861,674 cases since the start of the pandemic. The agency also confirmed 138 new deaths, for a total of 22,239 since the start of the pandemic last year.

    John L. Micek
    A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press