Allegheny County health officials have no plans to reinstate mask mandate

Delly Bezoss

Allegheny County health officials said Wednesday they have no plans to reinstate a mask mandate locally as officials in Philadelphia did.

“Cases in Allegheny County continue to be low, particularly when compared to the omicron surge in late December and January,” said health department spokesman Chris Togneri.

He said there is no threshold at which health Director Dr. Debra Bogen might consider such a mandate, but he added, “(We) continue to urge people to follow CDC guidance on masking and other mitigation measures.”

Togneri said health officials have “not yet detected an increase in total concentrations” of the virus in wastewater surveillance data.

Guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed significantly earlier this year when officials announced a new way of calculating the risk posed by the level of virus in a given county. Nearly all Pennsylvania counties are considered to have a low level of risk, per the latest data.

The announcement from Philadelphia health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole came on Monday as confirmed covid-19 cases there continued to rise. As of Wednesday, the county was reporting just under 78 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 54.5 cases per 100,000 residents a week prior.

“If we fail to act now, knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations, and then a wave of deaths, it will be too late for many of our residents,” Bettigole said Monday, noting about 750 Philadelphia residents died in the wintertime omicron outbreak. “This is our chance to get ahead of the pandemic, to put our masks on until we have more information about the severity of this new variant.”

In Allegheny County, cases have risen slightly. The seven-day average for the week ending April 5 was 69 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 59 cases per 100,000 residents for the week ending March 29.

As of Wednesday, the most recent seven-day average for Allegheny County had risen to about 70 cases per 100,000 residents, according to data from the state health department.

Hospitalizations, which have become the focus when it comes to calculating a county’s risk, remain low. Thirty-nine people were hospitalized with covid in Allegheny County on Wednesday, with five patients in intensive care and two on ventilators, according to state data. In Philadelphia, 63 covid patients were hospitalized, with 11 in the ICU and six on ventilators.

The hospitalization rate in Allegheny County is the lowest it’s been since mid-July 2021, data shows.

Hospitalizations tend to lag behind cases by about two weeks, as it takes some time for people with the virus to reach the point of needing to be hospitalized. Deaths also lag behind.

Allegheny County data show that 33 people died from covid-19 in March, down from 138 in February and 310 in January. The data list only two deaths so far in April.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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