After a year-long battle, Montgomery County gains upper hand against COVID

Annie McCormick Image
Friday, June 25, 2021
After year-long battle, Montco gains upper hand against COVID
Montgomery County officials say safety precautions, and vaccines, have loosened COVID-19's grip.

ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Those who were open-air shopping in Ardmore, Pennsylvania on Thursday saw sun, sales and for those comfortable enough to walk around mask-free, smiles.

"When I'm outside I feel comfortable with my mask off, but when I got inside I still like to put it on, just to be safe," said Mya Noeder of Bear, Delaware.

Those precautions combined with the advent of COVID-19 vaccines are why officials in Montgomery County recognize the virus no longer has as much of a hold on society here as it did a year ago.

"In the absence of vaccination, we would be in a very different situation," said Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

Arkoosh said this time last year the county was averaging about 30 COVID cases per day a week. That number is now down to four cases.

"The thing that's different is the vaccines," Arkoosh said.

According to the Action News Data Journalism Team, positivity rates are dwindling across all of Philadelphia's four collar counties. That includes Montgomery County, which has the lowest to date.

Across the river in New Jersey, health officials are worried about case counts moving, in their words, sideways as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads.

"Our numbers are not increasing like they were back in the fall, but yes, I have to believe that one of the reasons why we are going sideways is because of this new variant," said Dr. Edward Lifshitz with the New Jersey Department of Health.

In Camden County, health officials are urging people to get vaccinated now, warning that even though the numbers are low, cases could rise again.

"We are trying to drive the numbers (of vaccinations) up because the variant is still out there," said Anne Walters, the director of Camden County Health and Human Services.

A pop-up vaccine site at LUCY Outreach vaccinated at least 40 people including the Hernandez family on Thursday.

Twelve-year-old Noelani Hernandez received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and her parents received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson.

Walters said their goal is to target 18 to 30 year olds, specifically people in their 20s who seem to be opting out of vaccinations.

They also want to get as many kids 12 years and up vaccinated.

"In the city of Camden, we're about 50% vaccinated, and we want to really pump that number up over the summer and before the kids go back to school," said Walters.

Back in Montgomery County, the Delta variant is also a concern, but less so as long as vaccination rates stay consistent.

"When the variant starts to pick up, which it will, we don't have to worry about it, because we'll have so many people vaccinated that we'll be in a good place," Arkoosh said.

Vaccinated or not, there are still those who want to continue taking precautions, such as Erika Rakow from South Philadelphia, who is pregnant.

Montgomery County officials say safety precautions, and vaccines, have loosened COVID-19's grip.

"I think it's just a level of caution that I'm taking. I've made it this far in my pregnancy healthy, so I'm trying to maintain that sense of being as healthy as I can," said Rakow.

Montgomery County officials are still actively offering free COVID-19 testing as well as vaccinations.

They also encourage anyone who's only received one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get a second shot.