The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Bucks County as spirited debate swirls over masking and vaccination mandates.
The county’s seven-day average from Aug. 1 - 7 reached 80 new cases per day on Saturday, the highest it has been since mid-May. A total of 562 infections was reported last week, a 62 percent increase from the week before and a 150 percent increase from two weeks ago.
Those numbers have not translated to crowded hospitals or rising deaths to date.
One COVID-related death has been reported since July 15. Hospitalizations ticked up to 16 patients in Bucks County by Saturday, two of them on ventilators, but that level remains relatively low.
The vaccination rate continues to rise slowly, with 69 percent of adults in Bucks having received at least one dose of COVID vaccine. Public officials continue to encourage unvaccinated people to get the jab, saying it has proven to be the most effective way of avoiding death or serious illness, or spreading the virus to others.
Nationally, an even greater upswing continues. New cases have increased nine-fold since early July and hospitalizations related to the virus are at their highest level since February, according to CNN.
Accompanying the rising numbers have come renewed calls by some for mask mandates and mandatory vaccinations.
The Department of Defense on Monday announced plans to require members of the U.S. military to be fully vaccinated against COVID by at least mid-September. The plan is contingent on the vaccine receiving FDA approval or a waiver granted by President Biden, who expressed support for the move.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered masking for all public school students and staff regardless of vaccination status. Murphy also is requiring employees of certain state and private health care facilities to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 7 or to be tested on a regular basis.
New York is requiring vaccination or regular testing of state employees, while New York City residents and visitors must prove their vaccination status in order to enter gyms or dine indoors at restaurants.
Gov. Tom Wolf has not made such moves in Pennsylvania. Wolf said there are no plans, at this time, to mandate masking in schools and is instead allowing individual school districts to decide.
Philadelphia has announced it will require masking in public schools and some city restaurants are requiring proof of vaccination. Others, such as the Central Bucks School District, have chosen to make masking optional.
The Bucks County Commissioners this week ordered all employees and the public to wear masks when entering county buildings and in common areas such as hallways and elevators. County employees who can document their vaccination status are not required to wear masks in their offices or workspaces.
Bucks County President Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr. put out similar guidance for the county and district courts late last week.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 integrated county view, Bucks County’s test positivity rate has risen to 4.9 percent. Public health experts say anything above 5 percent positivity rate is concerning.
Bucks 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.
Media contact: Charlotte Reese, 215-348-6430, [email protected]