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Doctors Say Spike In COVID-19 Cases Includes First-Time Infections And Reinfections

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Coronavirus cases across Pennsylvania are on the rise again, including right here in our own backyard.

Doctors say the spike includes both first-time infections and people who are getting reinfected with the virus. And as of Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is counting reinfections in cumulative case counts.

"We are seeing reports in Pa. and Allegheny County that cases are going up," Internal Medicine Physician with Allegheny Health Network Dr. Marc Itskowitz said.

Itskowitz said cases are going up all over southwestern Pennsylvania, and he's attributing it to this.

"We are seeing colder temperatures. People are moving indoors. Those factors are likely increasing the spread of the virus," Itskowitz said.

While he's not seeing an uptick in the number of people being hospitalized, Itskowitz said he is seeing more people testing positive. He said some are getting COVID-19 for the first time while others more than once.

"We are approaching two years of this pandemic. So it's not surprising that reinfection is becoming more of an issue," said Itskowitz. "It suggests this virus is more likely going to remain embedded within the population and periodically cause illnesses."

He said medical professionals are seeing reinfection in both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, and while doctors like Graham Snyder, the medical director of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology at UPMC, said the infection isn't as serious for people who got the shot, immunity drops over time.

"We are definitely seeing reinfections in both and as we've seen in data around the country and globe, over time immunity starts to wane after you've been vaccinated," Dr. Snyder said.

That's why doctors stress getting the booster if you're eligible. Dr. Snyder attributes the uptick in infection and reinfection to people gathering more and wearing masks less.

Under the state's new guidelines, anyone who tests positive more than once at least 90 days apart will be counted as a reinfection.

"After 90 days, we believe the virus has been fully cleared from the body. So more than likely after 90 days represents a new infection," said Dr. Itskowitz.

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