Concerns mount for another winter surge of COVID-19 cases

PITTSBURGH — As families and friends get together and travel to see each other for the holidays, there are concerns about a winter surge of COVID-19.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said a spike in cases due to holiday gatherings is worrisome, but more so for the unvaccinated.

“This will be a very difficult winter for the unvaccinated,” Fitzgerald said during a press briefing.

COVID-19 cases have risen sharply over the past two weeks, with nearly 900 new cases reported Wednesday and no sign of a slowdown.

“Sadly, with winter and the holidays approaching, the disappointing data are not expected to improve soon,” Dr. LuAnn Brink, chief epidemiologist for the Allegheny County Health Department, said.

October marked the third-deadliest month since the pandemic began. Doctors are urging the unvaccinated to get their shots before Christmas and for those who are vaccinated, to booster up.

“If you don’t have protection against this virus, it’s inevitable — it’s going to find you, it’s going to infect you,” infectious disease expert, Dr. Amesh Adalja, tells Channel 11.

For those who are vaccinated and are celebrating the holidays with loved ones near and far, a new statistic stands out. Nearly 38% of cases reported in Allegheny County are among those who are vaccinated.

“These vaccines are not magic bug zappers that are going to stop every infection,” Dr. Adalja adds. “We expected breakthrough cases to occur especially as we’re faced with a more contagious variant and people are back to their activities and not wearing masks as much as they did.”

These breakthroughs tend to be much milder, less contagious, and rarely deadly.

Dr. Adalja says COVID-19 is here to stay — we need to learn to best live with it.

“We’re going to have COVID-19 cases 20 years from now. They’re just going to be shifted to more milder cases because of vaccines, because of immunity.”