Health officials in tri-state area warn about Delta variant as cases begin to rise

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Health officials across the tri-state area are urging residents to get vaccinated as the more contagious COVID-19 Delta variant continues to spread.

"Right now, (our job is) to get all hands on deck and get more people vaccinated," said Dr. Denise Johnson, Pennsylvania's physician general.

"While the good news is that we're not seeing the same type of surge particularly the south is seeing, the bad news, of course, is that the numbers are higher than they have been," added Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the medical director for the New Jersey Department of Health.

Data compiled by the Action News Data Journalism Team shows that since July 4, the number of Covid-19 cases have increased by 61.5% in Pennsylvania, up 60.7% in Delaware, and it's more than doubled to 105.5% in New Jersey.

With the Delta variant circulating across the region, studies show the vaccines are still incredibly effective in preventing serious illness, and that 99% of hospital cases are among unvaccinated people.

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"The president has said and our governor has said this is largely becoming the pandemic of the unvaccinated," said Dr. Lifshitz.

"We've got really good experience that tells us that people who are vaccinated are less susceptible and especially with the Delta variant," said Dr. Johnson.

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Officials from the American Academy of Pediatrics are recommending all school staff and students over the age of two years old to wear masks when schools reconvene.

The Philadelphia School District has already announced it will require masks for everyone, and has secured new air cleaning systems for all classrooms -- plans that have been endorsed by the teachers' union.

"The new air purifiers are going to make a difference in being able to provide clean air for students and staff in every classroom in the city," said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Although mask mandates are making a comeback for indoor public places in cities like Los Angeles, officials across the tri-state area do not foresee that happening here right now among people who are vaccinated.

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