Washington Health System President and CEO Brook Ward on Friday urged the public to get the COVID-19 vaccination as the Delta variant continues to spread across the country, including southwestern Pennsylvania.
“The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated if you haven’t already,” Ward said during a monthly update.
Washington and Greene counties are both experiencing significant spread of the virus. Fayette County continues to have a moderate distribution in the community.
Ward said the positivity rate stayed at around 1 1/2% for several months, but increased to 3.4% in the past 14 days.
“This is worrying,” said Ward.
In addition, the number of patients in the Washington Health System, which has had an average of about three COVID-19 patients over the past few months, rose to nine last Saturday. Six patients were hospitalized last Thursday.
“It is too early to speak of an increase or a spike, it is too early to speak of a trend. We’ll be watching it for the next few weeks, ”said Ward. “But I think what we are seeing is that COVID is absolutely increasing in our community, and that is leading to more people lying in our hospital beds.”
Ward said that in the past two weeks, about 60% of the COVID patients enrolled have not been vaccinated, while 40% have been fully vaccinated.
But the COVID-19 vaccines, Ward said, greatly reduced the severity of the disease in these landmark cases.
“All people who were fully vaccinated weren’t as sick and didn’t have to go to intensive care,” he said.
Ward said demand for COVID-19 vaccinations had dropped sharply in the area, leading to the closure of WHS ‘three mass vaccination clinics in late July.
Washington County’s population is only 50 percent fully vaccinated, while Greene County’s 38.4 percent. In Fayette County, approximately 42.5% of people are fully vaccinated.
Vaccination is still the best precaution against the virus, Ward said.
“I would strongly encourage you to get (vaccinated). It is the safe and effective way to protect yourself from COVID infection and if you do get COVID you will prevent you from getting extremely sick or even dying, ”said Ward. “You can do this to protect yourself and your family.”
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines are available by appointment at 11 WHS primary care offices in Washington and Greene counties.
The vaccines are also available at dozens of other locations in the counties.
“If you want it and you haven’t got it, it’s easy to get,” said Ward.
He also encouraged people to wear masks.
“That would apply to people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated,” said Ward. “If you are concerned about the rising numbers, get vaccinated, but at least wear a mask in public to protect yourself and remember, even if it’s not compulsory, you can still wear the mask. “
Ward noted that Pennsylvania does not currently have a mandate for students in Kindergarten through 12 to wear face masks in school, despite the recommendation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that everyone over the age of 2 be in public regardless of vaccination Indoors wear a mask status. On site, the schools make their own decisions about wearing masks.
He also noted that some companies that had done away with masking requirements are reintroducing these guidelines, pointing out at least two restaurants in Pittsburgh that require their diners to provide proof of vaccination.
“We’re not sure how many companies will reintroduce mask requirements or even vaccination certificates in the future,” said Ward. “But we want to encourage you to respect them. They don’t use these rules to offend or upset you; they do it to protect you, your employees, and the community.
Health organizations, including WHS, continue to require all staff, patients, and visitors to wear masks at all times in their facilities in accordance with guidelines from the CDC and the Department of Health.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to formally approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, and Ward hopes the formal approval will encourage those who have been reluctant to receive the vaccine to get vaccinated.