By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Allegheny County Health Director says the “very contagious” delta variant is driving the current wave of COVID-19 infections nationwide and is causing cases and hospitalizations to rise locally.

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According to the CDC, Allegheny County, along with several other local counties, have a “substantial” level of COVID-19 transmission, meaning it’s recommended that everyone wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. The CDC estimates the delta variant accounts for about two-thirds of the county’s cases.

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Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says the county is continuing to encourage people to follow CDC guidelines. He says another mask mandate isn’t being considered “necessarily at this time.”

Instead, the county is continuing to push for vaccinations. Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen says about 68% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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“Vaccinations continue to be the most important public health action we can take to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bogen.

For people registering for COVID-19 testing at the county’s sites, Bogen says about 20% of those who have tested positive in the last 28 days say they’ve been fully vaccinated. She says the county doesn’t have data yet for all the cases, but the Health Department is working with the state.

She pointed to a recently released CDC study of an outbreak in Massachusetts where a “high proportion” of cases were among the vaccinated. She says there were no deaths, seven hospitalizations and because of cooperation with contact tracers, public health officials were able to contain the spread with mitigation efforts like mask-wearing.

She says as more people get the shot, vaccinated people are likely to represent a larger proportion of COVID-19 cases.

“Like In Massachusetts, we are also seeing an increasing number of cases among those who are vaccinated. And again, we expect to see more of those as the number of people vaccinated increases.”

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Bogen says with even fully vaccinated people getting the virus, “it’s best to prevent getting infected if you can help it” because the long-term effects of the virus aren’t known yet.