'This is a very dangerous period': Farley expects more deaths to follow uptick in COVID infections

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley on Wednesday said he expects an increase in COVID-19 related deaths to follow an uptick in coronavirus infection across the city. 

"Case rates of COVID infection right now in Philadelphia are rising, we're at more than 400 cases per day," Farley told reporters at the grand opening of the city's seventh vaccination clinic.

Farley said the number of hospitalizations in Philadelphia is also climbing which he expects will lead to more deaths. 

"We know that deaths tend to lag behind [hospitalizations], so I would expect we're going to have an increase in deaths from COVID, I hate to say that but I can expect it based on the numbers we're seeing right now," Farley said.

MORE: Philadelphia will not join rest of Pa. in easing restrictions April 4 despite vaccination efforts

The health commissioner pointed out that roughly 70% of Philadelphia residents 64 and older have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. The elderly population is considered by health experts to be most at-risk for contracting serious illness and death from the coronavirus. 

Philadelphia recently moved into Phase 1B of its vaccine rollout, which includes members of the clergy, people with intellectual disabilities, and anyone who takes immune-suppressing medications. Healthcare workers, long term care residents and staff, and people 65 and older remain eligible.

Still, Philadelphia health experts warn that not enough people have been protected from the virus to belay mask-wearing and social distancing. 

"This is a very dangerous period," Farley said. "We have not yet vaccinated enough people to stop this particular wave of the epidemic."

As the city's cache of vaccines increases in the coming weeks, Farley expects Philadelphia will be "in a much better place" by the summer. Along with a FEMA-run site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia has scattered seven mass vaccination clinics in communities around the city with the capacity to innoculate 500 people per day.

According to the latest data, nearly 300,000 Philadelphians have been partially vaccinated and just under 200,000 are now fully protected. With a population of more than 1.5M people, Philadelphia still has a long way to go to bring shots to all residents.



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