Erie County has no immediate plans to require people to wear face masks or impose stricter social distancing measures, despite an increase in COVID-19 cases over the past three weeks.
The county remains at a moderate level of community transmission even with the recent increase in cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. CDC officials recommended Tuesday that people in counties with substantial and high levels of transmission, such as Crawford County, wear face masks when in public indoor areas.
“One reason we haven’t done much with (the CDC recommendations) is that we still have a low number of cases,” said Melissa Lyon, Erie County Department of Health director. “We are having conversations but won’t do anything unless we get to a substantial level.”
The highly transmissible Delta variant has sent COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations soaring in areas of the country with low vaccination rates. Erie County’s average daily number of new cases has more than doubled since early July but remains at fewer than 10 a day over the past week.
Since just 50.2% of all county residents have received at least one dose of vaccine as of Thursday, and 46.7% are fully vaccinated, Lyon said she expects the number of new cases to increase.
“It’s still too early to tell, but I think we’re going to get a surge,” Lyon said. “While we have a great tool to fight the virus, the vaccine, we are hitting a wall getting people vaccinated.”
A new map released by the county health department shows county vaccination percentages by ZIP codes. Here is a look at the three highest and three lowest percentages of fully vaccinated residents as of Monday:
- 16505 (west Erie, Millcreek and Fairview townships) — 57.89%
- 16509 (Millcreek, Summit and McKean townships) — 56.53%
- 16427 (Edinboro) — 55.68%
- 16401 (Conneaut and Elk Creek townships, Albion) — 22.43%
- 16503 (east Erie) — 26.32%
- 16411 (Springfield Township) — 30.25%
Lyon said her staff is hearing that some people still don’t trust the vaccines because they remain under emergency use authorizations and are not fully approved by the Food & Drug Administration.
“Others still are not comfortable navigating the health system to get vaccinated, and those in more rural areas have difficulty getting to where the vaccine is,” Lyon said.
The county health department is hosting three mobile vaccination clinics that are free and open to all county residents 12 and older. They are:
- Saturday from noon-3 p.m. at the Lake City Fire Dept., 2232 Rice Ave., Lake City.
- Tuesday from 5-8 p.m. at Corry National Night Out, City Park, Corry.
- Friday, Aug. 6, from 5-7 p.m. at Dan Rice Days Festival, Main Street West, Girard.
No appointment is necessary.
State health officials and Gov. Tom Wolf have indicated they will not impose a statewide mask mandate.
Lyon said it will be difficult to get people to comply with a countywide mandate if there isn’t one in other counties.
“It’s going to come down to the county executive as to what measures would be put in place,” Lyon said. “I see it being very difficult when you have one county doing one thing and a nearby county doing another.”
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Will face mask mandates return for Erie County residents? A health department official weighs in
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