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DOH Outlines ‘Next Phase’ of Pandemic Recovery

5 Takeaways on masking, vaccination, hospital preparedness

February 25, 2022

Pennsylvania is showing encouraging signs of a new phase in the COVID-19 pandemic, as the winter surge of cases and hospitalizations from the Omicron variant recedes, Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter said today.

During a press briefing, Klinepeter outlined the state’s next steps in its pandemic response and what to expect in the months ahead. She emphasized the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations and continued monitoring of the virus to ensure the state can quickly respond.

While the virus remains in its pandemic phase, case counts and hospitalizations are trending in a positive direction, she said.

“COVID-19 is not going away, but Pennsylvania is well-positioned with the tools, knowledge, and resources that we have to prioritize prevention in everyday life and manage future outbreaks when they occur,” Klinepeter said.

Among the takeaways from the press briefing:

  • Masking guidance:  The Department of Health (DOH) will look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the latest guidance on mask-wearing and will encourage residents to follow the guidance. The CDC update its guidance today
  • Pandemic or endemic?:  The World Health Organization will provide direction on when COVID-19 reaches its endemic phase
  • Hospital preparedness:  Pennsylvania reported 1,573 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, including 282 patients in the intensive care unit and 177 on ventilators. The state has been averaging about 2,600 cases a day, which is “orders of magnitude” lower than the winter peak, Klinepeter said
  • Health care infrastructure:  The ability to monitor the pandemic through surveillance and testing is important to ensure Pennsylvania is ready to respond to the virus
  • Vaccine progress:  About 76 percent of Pennsylvanians 18 and older are fully vaccinated. About 41 percent of Pennsylvania adults have received their booster dose. About 70 percent of children between 5 and 12 are fully vaccinated, Klinepeter said

Klinepeter said it will be important for everyone to understand the level of COVID-19 transmission and assess the risk of COVID-19 in their communities. She said the state would remain nimble “to quickly respond to any changes in the COVID-19 landscape.”

“We really want to focus on maintaining a state of readiness and that our activities are commensurate with the risk to Pennsylvanians,” Klinepeter said.

HAP will continue to provide updates on the public health response to COVID-19 to members and the general public.

A replay of today’s briefing is available online.