NORRISTOWN – Montgomery County health officials report that additional cases of the more infectious variant of the coronavirus, first documented in the UK, have been identified in the country.
“There are now a total of four, four confirmed cases of the British variant in Montgomery County. All four cases received investigations and contact tracing, ”Chief Commissioner Dr. Valerie Arkoosh revealed during a weekly news briefing on Wednesday.
Two weeks ago, officials identified the district’s first documented case of variant B.1.1.7 Britain, a 30-year-old bartender who works at an unidentified restaurant. Officials announced three additional cases of the variant on Wednesday.
“We have confirmed additional cases related to these individuals. Therefore, there are additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 which we consider possible for the variant type. But this has not been confirmed by viral genome sequencing of these individuals. Genome sequencing, which is a laboratory test that can confirm whether this is a variant or not, is still very limited, “explained Arkoosh.
“All this signals to us that the variant is likely to be much wider in the community than can be confirmed through laboratory testing,” added Arkoosh. “According to the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants and this is another reminder that we all have to continue to wear our masks, maintain social distancing, keep our hands clean and away from ours. face and avoid social gatherings. “
The four people who tested positive for the British variant were between their mid-20s and early 70s and none of the four people who had not received their COVID-19 vaccination. None of the individuals reported major underlying health problems, they all reported mild to moderate symptoms and none required hospitalization, officials said.
“None of these cases reported domestic or international travel, community attendance or mass events, exposure in long-term care facilities or in shared care settings, no sport exposures or other known high-risk exposures,” explained Arkoosh.
Arkoosh, who as a doctor has been at the forefront of the district’s efforts to fight COVID-19 and provides citizens with the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, shows that scientific information regarding the British variant is constantly evolving.
“I think data from the UK strongly suggests that it’s about 1½ times more infectious than the original variant. And the modeling I’ve been looking at for the United States suggests that in March we’ll really start to see extensive evidence of this variant, “explained Arkoosh.
“People should be aware that the mostly data-backed variant is more contagious than the original one in our midst and that people should continue to be very, very careful about wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distancing,” he added. Arkoosh, who was joined at the press conference by fellow Commissioner Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr.
Officials say the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be in very limited supply and they urge residents to be patient as vaccine rollouts continue.
Three weeks ago, state health officials expanded the coronavirus vaccination protocol, opening the door for all people aged 65 and over, and those aged 16 to 64 with certain underlying medical conditions, to receive the vaccine.
These categories are added to Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination program. Previous Phase 1A included only health workers and those living in long-term care facilities. With the expanded definition for group 1A, county officials estimate that an additional 250,000 people qualify for vaccination in Montgomery County as part of Phase 1A.
An appointment is required to receive the vaccine. All those who qualify for the vaccine in Phase 1A can pre-register to receive the vaccine through their local health department. The pre-registration link can be found at www.montcopa.org/COVID-19 below the green vaccination information button.
Last week, the Montgomery County Public Health Office opened a vaccination clinic at Norristown Middle School to serve those who have an appointment to receive their first dose of vaccine.
County received only the first 1,000 doses last week and has given all of those first doses by Tuesday. As a result, the Norristown clinic will be closed for the rest of the week. Arkoosh said the county health department expects to receive the first 3,900 doses this weekend and the Norristown clinic is expected to reopen on Monday.
“The good news is we have received our second dose. We received 5,800 second doses this week and continue to have the appropriate number of second doses to give to those who got our first dose, “said Arkoosh.
Those who received a second dose of the vaccine were being served at a clinic run by the Montgomery County Community College campus in Whitpain.
Starting this week, those who have pre-registered the vaccine through the country will receive weekly emails to keep them updated on the progress of vaccination and what to expect when it is their turn to receive the vaccine.
As of Wednesday, 153,502 people had pre-registered on the district website to make an appointment.
“Right now, depending on when you sign up and depending on how many vaccines we receive, it could easily take up to 12 weeks or longer before you hear from us about the actual scheduling of appointments,” explained Arkoosh.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported Wednesday that 17,363 county residents had received two full doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine through February 9. Another 61,689 residents have received the first dose of the vaccine, according to state data.
Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to achieve optimal protection.
As officials hope to scale up the vaccination program, they reported on Wednesday that an additional 151 people had tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of cases in the district to 44,583 since March 7, when the first two cases of the virus were identified in the country. . The thirteen new cases were individuals living in long-term care facilities.
Officials also reported 10 new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the death toll in the district to 1,176 since the pandemic began in March.
The overall 14-day COVID-19 positive rate for the country, as of February 4, is 7.54% which is a decrease from the 7.93% positive rate recorded during the previous 14-day period ending on January 28, according to regional data. .
Health officials believe having a positivity rate of less than 5% indicates an area is controlling the spread of the virus and keeping it suppressed.
As of Wednesday, 239 people with COVID-19 were in nine hospitals in the district and 35 of the patients currently need ventilators. The figure represents a reduction from 255 people hospitalized last week.
Testing is available to all residents of the area and those who work in the area and want or need to be tested. County has set up outdoor walking testing sites in Pottstown, Norristown, Lansdale, Willow Grove, Ardmore and Green Lane to accommodate those who wish to be tested.
Six county-run sites provide self-administered testing at no cost, although insurance is charged if you have one. The site does require an appointment for testing.
Six locations are open Monday to Friday, weather permitting and at varying hours. Same-day appointments can be made on weekdays starting at 7am with a visit www.montcopa.org/COVID-19 and clicking the testing area information button. Residents can also register for the test at one of the six locations by calling 610-970-2937 starting at 8:30 am daily.
In Pottstown, the testing site is located in Pottstown County Public Health Headquarters at 364 King St.
In Norristown, the testing site is located in the parking lot of the Delaware Valley Community Health Norristown Regional Health Center at 1401 DeKalb St.
In Lansdale, the test site was located at 421 Main St. Other test sites are located on Deep Creek and Snyder roads in the Green Lane Park area.
In Ardmore, the test site is located at 114 W. Lancaster Avenue.
In Willow Grove, the test site is at First Baptist Church – Crestmont, 1678 Fairview Ave. This Saturday, February 13th, the Willow Grove test site will be open from 9am to 1pm. Appointments for the Saturday exam can be booked online only from 7pm on Friday, 12 February.