Cautious optimism from doctors as local COVID hospitalizations decline

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Some local health care workers are confident that vaccinations, plus mitigation efforts like mask-wearing, social distancing, and proper hygiene, are slowing the number of people admitted to the hospital for COVID-19.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, a trend in the 14-day average shows that there are 3,700 fewer hospitalized patients per day compared to a peak during Christmastime.

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Two separate teams of researchers said this week they have found a worrying new coronavirus variant in New York City. Meanwhile, hope is on the horizon for a third U.S. COVID vaccine.

The current average is slightly below the height of the spring peak we saw in 2020. Additionally, the trends that Pennsylvania is seeing mirror what New Jersey and Delaware are observing as well.

Dr. Ronald Goren, an infectious disease specialist who works at St. Mary's Medical Center and Nazareth Hospital, is optimistic.

"We are at a point now where with some viruses, when you have this many people exposed or vaccinated, you're going to see less transmission between patients and that's why the numbers are starting to drop," said Goren.

New strains of the virus, including a strain discovered by two teams of researchers, have many people on edge.

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The mass vaccine site is for those in Philadelphia who are in phase 1B and have an appointment.

Genomics researchers have named the variant B.1.526. It appears in people affected in diverse neighborhoods of New York City, they said, and is "scattered in the northeast."

Speaking about variants overall, including the United Kingdom strain which is the most prevalent, Goren says the way vaccines are reacting to the UK strain is promising.

"The current vaccines we have, including the J&J (Johnson & Johnson) - which should be approved (Friday) - all seem to be active against the U.K. (United Kingdom) variant. That may be taken care of and that's the biggest variant in the country right now," Goren said.

News of another potential vaccine coming on the market in the fall also brings promise that soon vaccines will be more accessible.
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