About 1 in 4 recent COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been among those considered fully vaccinated, according to statistics provided by the state Department of Health.
But, the state also says vaccination remains the top way to avoid COVID and hospitalizations.
“From a clinical perspective, we expect to see the number of breakthrough cases go up as more people get vaccinated,” said Dr. Denise Johnson, acting physician general. “That means that fully vaccinated people have a greater than three times better chance of staying out of the hospital due to COVID-19. Another way to look at it: If you are playing the lottery and there is something you could do to triple your odds of hitting the jackpot, would you do it?”
Statistics involving breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and deaths were introduced Sept. 7 by the health department and the latest update Friday afternoon contained figures for the ensuing four weeks, ending with Monday.
The statistical period begins with Jan. 1, which was a couple weeks after the vaccination process got rolling.
On Sept. 7, health officials touted figures showing only 6% of cases, 5% of hospitalizations and 3% of deaths were breakthrough cases since Jan. 1.
By Monday, the recent four-week surge showed those numbers were up to 9%, 7% and 7%, respectively, due to the most recent 30-day upswing.
The department’s COVID press secretary, Barry O’ Neill, noted that there have been periods since Jan. 1 that saw similar high numbers as the four weeks ending Monday, and that the recent results are not jumps from single digits.
His emailed statement: “As Dr. Johnson noted, the increases have been happening since more people were eligible to get vaccinated in late April through when the delta variant took hold.
“For example, a quick look at breakthrough cases and hospitalizations from April 25 to Aug. 29 showed 23% of cases, 25% of hospitalizations were among vaccinated individuals.
Comparing those numbers to the most recent 30-day period – 26% and 26% — is not substantial.”
The term fully vaccinated is applied across the board by medical authorities to mean anyone more than two weeks beyond the final dose of vaccine. Any status less than that is not fully vaccinated.
It’s unclear if the state knows how much time passed after the completed inoculation in the breakthrough cases. Much has been made of the waning effectiveness of vaccines, especially the Pfizer product.
The state’s Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard showed Berks County with 1,015 cases for the week ending Thursday, eight fewer than the week ending Sept. 30, a rate of 191.4 cases per 100,000 population and a 10.4% positivity rate.
However, that statistical week did not include the delta second-highest daily case total of 173 on Friday, though it did include the delta high 191 on Thursday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s statistics for the same period are 1,036 cases with a rate a tick below 246 cases per 100,000 and a 9.8% positivity rate.
The Early Warning Dashboard showed Pennsylvania overall reached the highest level of the delta surge with nearly 35,000 cases for the week ending Thursday, a plus 1,268, with a case rate of 215.5 per 100,000 and a 9.6% positivity rate.
The entire state remained in the high-transmission metric. One lightly populated county, Sullivan, dipped to substantial for a few days but by Saturday was back in “high”.
The high transmission metric starts at 100 cases per 100,000 population in the CDC data.
The differences in data from the CDC and the state have been significant at times over the months and neither agency has had an explanation for that.
Berks added 142 COVID cases in the Saturday update of the health department dashboard.
For Berks, the pandemic case total increased to 55,997. A delta record of 191 was reported Thursday with a delta second-highest 173 on Friday.
Each new case is a new person testing positive. The averages smooth the uneven reporting of test results.
Each day’s report is a composite of the previous day, in this case Friday.
In hospitalizations, the state dashboard update Saturday showed Berks at 74 patients with 17 in the intensive care units at Reading Hospital or Penn State Health St. Joseph.
The 17 patients in the ICU is a delta record. The delta record for total patients is 87.
Overall, Pennsylvania’s string of high cases continued Saturday with a top-five delta day of 5,610 new cases.
That followed 5,583 on Friday after a delta record 5,819 reported Thursday.
The pandemic total of cases passed 1.47 million, and was close to 1.48 million.
Berks had 2.5% of the state’s cases. At 429,000 residents, the county has 3.3% of the state’s population.
The U.S. overall is down sharply since Sept. 1 in cases, but not Pennsylvania.
The latest CDC statistics showed the seven-day U.S. case average is 93,605, down from a delta peak of 161,498 on Sept. 1.
COVID hospitalizations in Pennsylvania were nearly steady, down one to 2,929 with six fewer in the ICU at 674.
A delta record of 3,001 patients was reported Thursday.
There were no dashboard updates for deaths and vaccinations.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed 227,712 Berks residents as fully inoculated, an increase of more than 500.
The CDC presents a more complete picture of inoculations.
That’s because the CDC also counts those vaccinated at Veterans Affairs locations, and the initial vaccination effort at nursing homes was under direct federal supervision.
COVID in Berks
New cases: 142
Pandemic total: 55,855
Deaths: state, 1,103; coroner, 1,050
Fully vaccinated: 227,166
Source: Berkshire mont