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COVID vaccinations back down to a trickle in Berks

The bump in COVID-19 vaccinations in Berks County appears to be over, unless there was a reporting glitch.

The past week’s statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health dashboard shows a return to the trickle of shots that has been the status quo for most of the past five months as a highly contagious variant continues to course through the county, state and nation.

The latest numbers for Berks County:

• 181: Residents getting “fully vaccinated” in the past week for a total of 251,481 over the entire 20-month episode of inoculation opportunities. It was less than half of the previous week, which had been the most in that category since February.

• 244: Residents getting either their first booster or a third full dose for the immunocompromised in the past week, for a total of 119,923, also less than half of the prior week.

• 460: Residents getting either a second booster or a fourth full dose for the immunocompromised in the past week, for a total of 24,276, about a third of the previous week.

The county’s population is 429,000, according to the 2020 census. No one who dies of any cause is purged from the vaccination rolls.

Cases and more

The latest COVID surge is a composite of four omicron variants and started in early May. There was a short-lived dip in cases in late June.

Berks County remains a low-risk COVID county in the assessment of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though the case numbers had been escalating and with them the positivity rate and hospitalizations.

But a weekend update is showing a dip in cases for Berks and Pennsylvania. Nationally, a downward trend is continuing for a second week.

Berks was a minus nine cases in the weekend update of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard.

The positivity rate in Berks for the week was down slightly to 18.8%. The new-cases rate was also down slightly to 111 per 100,000 of the population.

That seems to fit the small case decline.

Pennsylvania overall saw a decrease of 2,985 cases for the week, wiping out the previous week’s increase and then some.

But, Pennsylvania’s overall infection rate remained at 131 per 100,000 and the positivity rate was down two-tenths of a point to 17.2%.

The decrease in cases roughly mirrors the increase in cases across the state shown in the midweek report.

It’s unclear how the case rate can remain the same with nearly 3,000 fewer cases, a decrease of more than 10%.

A potential explanation is that the weekly update is based on only the nasal swab test, the PCR, and the midweek update is based all tests, and there was a big increase in the swabs.

The health department releases the automated report without comment. The picture might clear next weekend.

Other COVID statistics for Berks from the CDC:

• 28: Hospital admissions in the past week, down from 37 a week earlier.

• 2,602: Tests recorded in the past week, up about 100, top week in the second omicron surge.

Case levels are three to four times higher in Berks than at the same time in the previous pandemic summers of 2020 and 2021.

Pennsylvania is averaging 196 COVID hospital admissions per day in the past week, roughly flat, and has recorded 94 deaths in the past week, down 22, according to the CDC.

By the weekend, the CDC COVID statistics are more up to date than the midweek state health department update. The CDC data for Pa. cases mirrors the midweek state report — they’re going up — and not the weekend update.

Pennsylvania is no longer updating cases, hospitalizations and deaths based on vaccination status.

National look

BA.5 has become the most dominant strain of COVID since its parent, the original omicron, ran rampant through the U.S. population at the beginning of 2022, according to the CDC.

The highly contagious strain is responsible for 85.5% of all cases in the country, and a slightly higher percentage in the mid-Atlantic, according to CDC information.

BA.5 hit in earnest about four weeks ago and pushed up the national seven-day case average to 129,674 on July 16.

Since then, there has been a slow but steady erosion of that number, with the latest figure Saturday of 114,830. It might indicate BA.5 is running its course.

Pennsylvania is faring well compared to many states in terms of the official case numbers, with only 14 of the 67 counties considered high risk. Joining that high-risk group this week are Lebanon and Philadelphia counties.

Other states, such as Florida and Ohio, are nearly blanketed in the brown shading, which designates high-risk on the CDC map. Delaware, with three counties, is entirely high risk.

New York and New England are almost entirely green, or low risk, like Berks.

The official case numbers are about a seventh of the peak of the initial omicron surge that started the year. Many people who had the original omicron have also been afflicted by one or more of the variants.

Health officials are concerned that an accurate picture of the spread isn’t available due to widespread at-home testing and no testing.

Free testing site

The state health department encourages residents to drop in to the COVID community-based testing sites operated in partnership with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, including the Berks site in Bern Township.

AMI is offering three forms of free testing: point-of-care tests where tests are performed and results are analyzed on-site; the distribution of at-home antigen testing; and continued administration of the nasal passage swab PCR testing.

The Bern Township site is at 2561 Bernville Road.

The site is expected to be open at least until Sept. 4, running 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Officials said the Do Your Part Berks website remains a good source of information: https://www.doyourpartberks.com.


Source: Berkshire mont

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