A rising number of COVID-19 cases has pushed Washington County into the substantial spread category, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 transmission tracker.

Greene and Fayette counties remained in the moderate spread category on Tuesday.

As the Delta variant – a more contagious, more severe version of the coronavirus – continues to spread, health officials continue to stress the importance of getting vaccinated to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The three COVID-19 vaccines still provide strong protection against the coronavirus, and remain the best defense.

“That’s all the more reason to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Thomas Corkery, CMO at Allegheny Health Network Canonsburg Hospital, noting that the unvaccinated population accounts for nearly all of the new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The vaccines are doing their job – preventing serious illness and death – and despite an uptick in “breakthrough” cases, most of those who are vaccinated experience mild illness and don’t require hospitalization.

“But the important thing is, you’re still pretty protected,” said Corkery. “And we’re going to see, with a 94% effective vaccine, that leaves 6% who can get sick,” said Corkery. “But the vaccine seriously reduces death and serious disease.”

The CDC recommends that people wear face masks in all public indoor places in areas of substantial or high spread, regardless of vaccination status.

According to the CDC, that’s because research is showing vaccinated people can get infected with the Delta variant, and then spread it to people who aren’t vaccinated, including children under the age of 12 and those with health issues. Wearing a mask helps protect them.

The state Department of Health recommends that all Pennsylvanians follow the CDC’s mask guidelines regarding masks, but said it will not reinstate a mask mandate.

Corkery recommends those who are unvaccinated wear N-95 face masks, which provide greater protection from infectious coronavirus particles than cloth masks.

“People who didn’t get vaccinated should be taking more precautions,” he said.

As of Monday, 25 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties were classified as having substantial or high risk for community spread.

According to the CDC, those counties had a case rate of at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people or a test positivity rate of 8% or higher from Monday through Sunday.

In Washington County, there have been 115 COVID-19 cases in the last seven days, an approximately 155% increase in cases from the prior seven-day total, according to the CDC. The case rate was roughly 55.6 per 100,000, and there were eight hospitalizations.

Fayette County has had 34 additional cases, a roughly 112.5% increase over the previous week, and one reported hospitalization. The case rate was 26.3 per 100,000.

Greene County has experienced a 22.2% increase in COVID-19 cases, with 11 new cases reported in the last seven days and a reported case rate of 30.36 per 100,000. There were no hospitalizations reported, according to the CDC.

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