Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine speaks at a virtual media briefing on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.  (Photo: PA.gov)
Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine speaks at a virtual media briefing on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Photo: PA.gov)

Pennsylvania plans to move to the second phase of its Covid-19 vaccination plan "soon," Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Monday.

Phase 1B would expand the coronavirus vaccine rollout to individuals aged 75 and older and those in various categories of essential worker: public transit employees, corrections officers, mail carriers and education workers, among others.

The current phase, 1A, covers health care workers and individuals in nursing homes and similar settings. Details of each phase can be found on the state Department of Health's vaccine web page.

Levine did not offer a specific date for Phase 1B to start, or other details.

Addressing criticism that the rollout has been slow and communication has been poor, the secretary said "we all need to do better," but that things are improving.

To date, about 827,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have been shipped to Pennsylvania. State data shows 285,671 of those doses have been administered, but Levine said there is bound to be an undercount due to lags in reporting data.

"It's a misconception that thousands of doses are sitting there" unused, Levine said, nor is the state hearing that vaccine supplies are being discarded.

Still, Levine stressed the importance of administering shots as quickly as possible. If a provider has doses available, and no one in Phase 1A to give them to, by all means give the shots to people in Phase 1B, Levine said.

Numbers trending upward

Meanwhile, the latest data on the state's Covid-19 Early Warning Monitoring System dashboard shows the pandemic beginning to worsen again in Lancaster County.

The county's case rate rose from 324.2 to 388.8 cases per 100,000, and its positivity rate rose from 13.5% to 14%, the dasboard shows. Average hospitalizations crept up as well, from 137.1 to 141.2. The dashboard was last updated on Friday, Jan. 8.

(Source: Pa. Dept. of Health)
(Source: Pa. Dept. of Health)

The pandemic had eased up in the days after Christmas, with case rates, percent positivity, hospitalizations and deaths all declining.

A projection released last week by PolicyLab, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia research center that is tracking the pandemic nationwide, Lancaster County's case numbers floating upward through the remainder of January.

Last week, the state Department of Education changed its guidance to encourage in-person instruction for elementary school students, even in areas with substantial coronavirus transmission.

In a blog post, PolicyLab recommends school districts seek a "middle ground" as they weigh in-person versus remote instruction.

"This is not the time to be bold in repopulating classrooms," PolicyLab said. Still, every school is different, and "motivated communities and school districts can have success in both reopening schools and keeping members of the school community safe."

PolicyLab's projection (dashed line) for Covid-19 cases in Lancaster County. (Source: PolicyLab)
PolicyLab's projection (dashed line) for Covid-19 cases in Lancaster County. (Source: PolicyLab)
Tim Stuhldreher