Health officials urge caution even as COVID-19 vaccines arrive

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As vaccines begin to arrive in the Delaware Valley, health officials urged residents to continue to take precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"It is very clear that our hospitals and our health systems are significantly challenged in Pennsylvania due to COVID-19," said state Health Commissioner Dr. Rachel Levine during a briefing Monday.

Pennsylvania health officials outlined numbers, announcing 7,962 new cases of COVID-19 and nearly 6,000 hospitalizations.

"We do continue to hear of additional hospitals across the state that have very few ICU beds left, or even no ICU beds left," said Levine.

First doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Philadelphia
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A total of 1,950 of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine doses are now safely stored in sub-zero freezers at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.

New cases, hospitalizations and deaths are climbing in Pennsylvania.

According to the Action News Data Journalism Team, the commonwealth saw an average of 176 deaths per day over the past seven days, now higher than the spring surge, as our area is receiving the first doses of the new COVID vaccine.

"As vaccinations move forward we are going to be facing stiff headwinds from the second wave," said Gov. Phil Murphy during Monday's briefing in Trenton, N.J.

Officials in New Jersey say the next six to eight weeks could be especially bleak in the wake of possible holiday gatherings.

Confirmed U.S. COVID-19 death toll surpasses 300k as vaccine rollout begins

New Jersey reports just over 700 ICU patients, about a third of the state's peak of 2,000 ICU patients in April. Murphy urged people not to be complacent as vaccines roll out.

"For us to reach the so-called herd immunity among adults that we aspire to do, it will require at least 70% of New Jersey's adults to be vaccinated," said Murphy.

Gov. Murphy says he does not anticipate lifting any restrictions for New Year's Eve, encouraging folks to keep celebrations small through the holidays. He says by April or May with more vaccines likely available, it could be a much different story.

The percent positivity in New Jersey is just under 11%. In Pennsylvania it's 16%, and health officials there say the spread of the virus is substantial - the highest level - in all counties.
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