Dr. Tom Farley

Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley urges those 65 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

-SCREENSHOT

Due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley is urging people 65 and older to be vaccinated.

He said that more than 80% of Philly's deaths from COVID occurred in people over the age of 65.

"My message to Philadelphia residents today is if you are over age 65 and not been vaccinated yet, sign up now to get vaccinated. Don’t delay," Farley said during a virtual media briefing held on Tuesday.

The Health Department is asking all partner vaccine providers to prioritize those who are older than 65.

Farley said they want to make it as easy as possible for these people to be vaccinated and prevent them from dying from COVID-19 if they get infected.

His advice comes at the Philadelphia Public Health Department announced 477 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 novel coronavirus in the city, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 123,489. The department also reported 236 new probable cases from rapid antigen tests.

Farley said the number of cases per day has nearly doubled in the past month.

“Cases are rising not just here in Philadelphia, but they are rising all around us - all across the United States and they are particularly high in New Jersey and New York,” he explained.

“So the epidemic appears to be returning to where it began a year ago.”

He cited a study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine that 30% of their tests on coronavirus isolates found variants of concern. Many of those were the variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom.

Farley said the variant is thought to be more easily spread, but it does not cause a more serious infection and it can be prevented by vaccination.

"It's unclear if this variant is a cause or effect of this rise in rates, but it is clear that this is a new wave of the epidemic across the United States and that this virus has and will continue to surprise us," Farley said.

The Health Department confirmed eight additional fatalities in Philadelphia, bringing the number of residents who have succumbed to the virus in Philadelphia to 3,259. Of the 3,259 total deaths, 1,175 (36%) were long-term care facility residents.

“If our case rates continue to rise and our hospitalizations continue to rise and our death rates continue to rise we may have to impose restrictions to save lives and to protect our hospitals from being overwhelmed,” Farley said.

Update on FEMA-run vaccination sites

The FEMA-run mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center will be administering second doses to people who already received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine for the next two weeks. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be administered during the site’s last two weeks.

A new FEMA-run site on Esperanza's campus in North Philadelphia will open sometime next week or the following week. There is no set open date.

The site located at 5th and Hunting Park Ave. can serve at least 1,000 people a day and will be available for eight weeks. Farley said Esperanza is located in a zip code with the least number of vaccinated people in the city.

People can be vaccinated at the site through a combination of appointments and walk-ins.

COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) deadline extended

Online applications for the Pennsylvania COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) have been extended by one week; the new application deadline is 11:59 p.m. on April 12. The online application and details about the program’s eligibility requirements are available at PIDCphila.com/CHIRP.

CHIRP is a new $145 million statewide program created by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to alleviate revenue losses and pay eligible operating expenses for certain businesses in the hospitality industry, which has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Update on administration of vaccines

As on Monday evening, data showed that 509,000 people received their first doses of the vaccine in Philadelphia, while 241,000 have been fully vaccinated.

There are currently 226 sites enrolled as vaccine provider sites in Philadelphia, which include hospitals, clinics and independent pharmacies.

Philadelphia is still in phase 1B of the vaccination process.

Farley said the city will move to phase 1C for vaccinations in April. He did not provide an official date.

215-893-5747; ajones@phillytrib.com

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