HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP)--
Pennsylvania is “winning” the race to contain a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations thanks to its accelerating vaccine rollout, the governor said Wednesday, as state officials sought to address what they view as the pandemic’s next big challenge — persuading stragglers to get the shot.
The Wolf administration is pushing people to get inoculated against the coronavirus as soon as possible, saying vaccines will be what end the pandemic, and has so far shown little appetite for new mitigation measures to address the latest surge in infections and hospitalizations.
“It’s a race between the vaccine and the upsurge, this fourth upsurge, and I think the vaccine is winning,” Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday outside Bethlehem Baptist Church in McKeesport, near Pittsburgh, which will host a community vaccine clinic operated by the Allegheny County Health Department.
Pennsylvania this week eased restrictions on bar seating, restaurant capacity and indoor and outdoor events, even though the state — along with New York, Michigan, Florida and New Jersey — accounted for nearly half of the nation’s reported infections over a recent seven-day reporting period.
But Wolf said an increasing vaccine supply has put Pennsylvania in a much different position than it was in November, when the state and the rest of the country were heading into the pandemic’s darkest period. He predicted that anyone who wants a shot will have been able to receive at least an initial dose by the second week of May.
“The real race, the real end of this is going to be because enough people get vaccinated that we actually can get back to life pretty much as normal, and that’s the strategy we have,” Wolf said.
Facing a deadline set by President Joe Biden, the state recently expanded eligibility to more frontline workers and said that every adult in Pennsylvania will qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine starting April 19.
Pennsylvania received 440,000 first doses this week — the most since the vaccine rollout began in December — with pharmacies and the city of Philadelphia receiving hundreds of thousands of additional doses directly from the federal government. More than 44% of the state’s adult population has gotten at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.