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Allegheny County Officials Point To CDC Guidelines For Mask-Wearing As Cases Continue To Climb

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - With COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths climbing Allegheny County, officials say they'll continue to follow CDC guidance on mask-wearing.

It comes after Allegheny County Council voted against a mask mandate sponsored by Bethany Hallam and Olivia Bennet by 2-10, with most raising questions about the council's authority. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says the county Health Department has the authority to require mask-wearing and is constantly monitoring the data.

"What we are for is following the CDC guidelines, and that's what Dr. Bogen has been talking about consistently since the very beginning," said Fitzgerald during the county's weekly COVID-19 briefing.

Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said the county is averaging about 300 new cases a day, hospitalizations are still climbing slowly, the percent positivity has increased to 6.2% and more people are dying. In July, 11 people died of COVID-19. In August, that number jumped to 54.

Bogen also addressed the data the state released Tuesday on breakthrough cases. She says before June, breakthrough cases were rare. In August, about 23% of cases were breakthroughs and about 10% of people in the hospital were fully vaccinated. Deaths remain uncommon among those fully vaccinated and were mostly among elderly and frail patients with underlying conditions, Bogen says.

Fitzgerald applauded the Biden administration's recent sweeping vaccine mandates for federal workers and large companies. Right now vaccinations are mandated for new Allegheny County employees, and Fitzgerald says that could be expanded to all employees in the coming weeks.

"I think you're going to see more and more folks who aren't vaccinated -- quite frankly, are going to be isolated from society," he said.

Both Fitzgerald and Bogen pointed to the state's breakthrough data as evidence that the vaccines are effective and continued to encourage people to get the shot.

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