State expands crowd limits as COVID-19 virus cases drop

·3 min read

May 12—The statewide seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases is at its lowest point since the end of October.

There were 2,385 additional positive cases Tuesday, putting the rolling seven-day average at 2,207 cases a day. That's down from 3,176 average cases a day one week ago and from a spring peak of more than 5,000 COVID-19 cases a day for the seven days ending April 18.

With the continued improvement, Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday announced expanded limits on large gatherings.

Beginning Monday, maximum occupancy limits will be increased to 50% for indoor events and gatherings and 75% for outdoor venues.

"As more Pennsylvania adults get vaccinated and guidance from the (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) evolves, we can continue to move forward with the commonwealth's reopening efforts," Wolf said.

"We recognize the significant strain businesses have faced during COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Throughout the last year and a half, we have seen businesses continue to put the safety of their patrons first and I believe they will continue to do so even with this capacity increase."

Municipalities, school districts, restaurants and other private venues may continue to require stricter mitigation efforts.

Wolf urged those who are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"During the pandemic, all Pennsylvanians have worked collaboratively to stop the spread of COVID-19," he said. "We must continue that same mindset during our reopening efforts."

Data included in Tuesday's update by the Department of Health appears to illustrate the effectiveness of getting the vaccine.

While total cases are down significantly since January, the portion of total cases in those under 50 years old has increased.

The biggest increases were for age groups less than 19 years old — most of whom have not been eligible for the shots.

The 5-12 year age group, for example, accounted for 4% of all cases in January, but 8% of all cases so far in May.

After U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday expanded use of the Pfizer vaccine to those as young as 12, the state health department said those shots could begin later this week following final recommendations by the federal vaccine advisory committee.

"We are thrilled that the FDA's research has determined the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for individuals as young as 12," Alison Beam, acting secretary of health, said in a press release.

"This means that approximately 750,000 more Pennsylvanians will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19."

There were 57 additional deaths in Tuesday's update, including one each in Cambria, Blair and Somerset counties.

Pennsylvania's totals are now 1,177,072 cases and 26,607 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Cambria County had 53 new cases, Somerset County had 13, Bedford County had 12, Blair County had 69, Indiana County had 24, Clearfield County had 21, Centre County had 28, and Westmoreland County had 79 new cases.

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