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Vaccines won’t mean no masks

Pennsylvania is preparing to receive and distribute promising COVID-19 vaccines that are expected to be approved by the federal government within the next couple of months, but that won’t mean it’s OK to relax, according to state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, speaking in a virtual news conference Thursday.

“I’m anticipating we’ll be wearing masks well into 2021,” Levine said. “Maybe to the end of 2021.”

Masks are needed now more than ever: On Thursday, the state set its third consecutive daily record for new cases, moving into the 7,000s for the first time, after moving into the 6,000s for the first time the day before.

Also on Thursday, the six local counties set a record with 12 new deaths, bringing their total to 164.

“We anticipate a very challenging time,” Levine said about dealing with COVID-19 in the coming weeks and months.

The virus is thriving all over the country, according to news reports.

“(And) we are not an island,” Levine said. “The only state that seems to be stabilizing now is Hawaii, which is an island.”

Two vaccines developed under the federal Operation Warp Speed, one from Pfizer and one from Moderna, are likely to be granted an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December or January, one after another, after 90 percent and greater success rates in preliminary trials, according to Levine.

They’ll be distributed in priority phases, according to the department’s “COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan:

n First, people most essential to the COVID-19 response, those at greatest risk of death and their caregivers, those essential to core society functions, health care workers and other essential workers.

n Second, people involved in broader health care work; those who face barriers to care if they become sick; those contributing to the maintenance of core society functions; those living or working in conditions that elevate their risk.

n Third, the rest of society.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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