As COVID-19 cases rise sharply across the nation, Bucks County’s numbers have also gone up in recent weeks.
The increases here, however, have not approached the alarming, hospital-crowding spikes being seen in states where vaccination rates are especially low.
New cases are significantly fewer than this time last year, the COVID death rate continues to fall, and last week ended with just eight COVID-infected patients in Bucks County’s hospitals.
The main reason, national and local officials say, is simple: vaccinations. COVID in America has fast become a pandemic of the unvaccinated – one in which people of all ages who have failed to get the vaccine are driving the numbers up, and suffering the most serious symptoms.
“The current surge in COVID cases around the nation is among those who are unvaccinated,” the Bucks County Commissioners said in a joint statement. “While being vaccinated is not a guarantee against getting COVID, almost all of the COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations around the nation are among those not vaccinated.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than half of all Americans are vaccinated against COVID. In Bucks County, almost four out of every five people eligible for the vaccine have received at least one dose.
Bucks County reported an average of 32 new COVID cases per day last week, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the CDC. That represents an increase of 10 cases per day over the previous week, and more than triple the rate of early July, when daily cases numbered in single digits.
But it is far fewer than the same time last year, when Bucks averaged 46 cases per day, let alone earlier this year, when daily cases were averaging more than 400 per day. In 2020, COVID numbers increased significantly in the weeks following the July 4 holiday, but dropped again to pre-holiday levels in August.
Six COVID-related deaths have been reported so far in July. A total of 19 deaths were recorded in June – half the number of June 2020.
National numbers have proven more troubling, with talk of renewed COVID restrictions – from masking orders to shutdowns – roiling everything from stock prices to discussions of fall school procedures. Philadelphia health officials last week said they “strongly recommend” that everyone, even the fully vaccinated, wear masks again inside public places.
County Commissioner Bob Harvie said Bucks will not be recommending masking of the vaccinated.
“Bucks County has no plans to urge fully vaccinated people to wear masks,” Harvie said. “Part of the motivation for people to get vaccinated has been eliminating the need to wear masks in order to be safe from the worst effects of the coronavirus or to keep from spreading it to others.
“The best protection from getting or spreading COVID is clear: Get yourselves vaccinated and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do so as well. The vaccine works, and has been shown to be effective against all known variations of the coronavirus, including the much-discussed delta variant. Bucks County and its Health Department have been doing everything we can to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”
The county continues to offer free vaccinations to anyone age 12 and over from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem and Warwick Square in Jamison. For a full list of vaccine providers in Bucks County and locations where COVID vaccines are being offered, please check Bucks County’s Coronavirus Testing/Vaccination Information page.
The shifting national and local COVID numbers have complicated the debate in many school districts over whether to require masks for students in the fall. Bucks County’s school districts are required to submit their fall reopening plans to the state by the end of this week.
In anticipation of those decisions, the county commissioners issued the following statement, reiterating that each school board and administration must decide what is best for their district, and emphasizing the importance of vaccinating eligible children:
“The one constant during the past 16 months has been the inability to accurately predict how the virus may affect communities week-to-week, month-to-month. Because of this, all schools should be prepared to implement masking requirements based on conditions in Bucks County.
“School board directors and school administrators are free to follow whatever guidance they feel is most appropriate for their students and staff, as they are the ultimate authorities in their districts. We recommend they also consult their solicitors.
“For decades the Bucks County Health Department has run multiple programs to protect the health of the children of our county. For all those who share this commitment to keeping our children safe, the best way to accomplish this is to get children over 12 vaccinated, to get yourselves vaccinated and to make sure those they interact with are vaccinated.
“The current surge in serious COVID cases around the nation is among those who are unvaccinated. While being vaccinated is not a guarantee against getting COVID, almost all of the COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations around the nation are among those not vaccinated. For those who never wish to wear masks again and don’t want their children to have to go to school wearing masks, please get yourselves and your children vaccinated.”
Media contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, [email protected]