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Low hospitalization rate is key to keeping relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, local doctor says

PITTSBURGH — On April 4, COVID-19 restrictions will be loosened across Pennsylvania.

Increased capacity limits and bars and restaurants serving alcohol without food -- these are just some of the changes coming on Easter Sunday.

But that change toward normalcy is happening at the same time the region has started to see a slight surge in coronavirus cases.

Many people, including experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said loosening restrictions already is premature and could cause a large jump in cases. However, a local doctor believes Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to relax some of the guidelines in Pa. is warranted.

“I think eventually what your going to see is a change in the risk perception as this disease becomes something much more manageable, one that’s never able to land people in the hospital at the rate that it had been in the past,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease doctor with Johns Hopkins University. “So, I do think Governor Wolf’s decision here is warranted because hospital capacity is what really flattening the curve has always been about: staying below hospital capacity.”

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This comes as recent COVID-19 numbers across our area continue to rise. In Allegheny County, the health department said it reported its highest totals of new cases since January -- with a combined 1,033 between Friday and Saturday.

Westmoreland County reported its highest new case total in 2021 this weekend with 357.

Adalja told Channel 11 these numbers will continue to climb until all groups are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s the severity of cases that will determine how strict rules are.

“COVID-19 is never going to be a virus that leaves us. It’s something that established in the human population, it spreads efficiently. Years from now we will still have COVID cases, but they will not be a public health emergency because it won’t be something that’s able to do what it’s done during this pandemic because of the vaccine,” Adalja said.

Vaccination clinics continue to take place across western Pa., with the goal of getting shots to as many people as possible.

UPMC is holding a clinic on Wednesday for pregnant women who have chosen to get vaccinated.