June 21, 2021
The last fifteen months have been among the toughest in the history of our city. We’ve lost more than 3,700 loved ones, friends, and neighbors. We’ve lost jobs, hours, and wages. We’ve lost a year of our lives to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hearts have broken, and broken, and broken again.
But we’ve also seen our city pull together like never before. We’ve seen armies of volunteers helping with vaccinations and food boxes. We’ve seen our businesses, sports teams, and even a university step up to donate vaccine incentives. We’ve seen children drawing rainbows to cheer their neighbors, artwork that is now being donated to those who have lost loved ones. And we’ve seen heroic healthcare workers walking into the rooms of patients with COVID even when supplies of masks and gowns were so short that they were being asked to reuse a single mask for a week, long before vaccines were available to protect them.
We are so close to safety now. Many of us are vaccinated, crying tears of joy as we hug friends and family members who we haven’t seen in more than a year. Grandparents are finally getting to hold grandchildren they’ve only met on screens. We’re filling the streets, restaurants, and stadiums and a feeling of sheer happiness lifts up our city.
But some of us are not yet safe. And as I watch what is happening in the UK, where the Delta variant has quickly taken over, causing case counts to surge again, increasing hospitalizations, and hitting young people hard, I am calling out to you. Don’t miss your chance at safety. We are so close, but we are not yet there. We have a little time, but not much. About 10% of US cases are now Delta variant. Given the rate at which it has increased in the UK and in the US, we should expect the majority of infections to be Delta variant by late July. And that could mean another big increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations in Philadelphia. It could mean that, but it doesn’t have to.
The good news, really the amazing news, is that people who are fully vaccinated are protected against this variant. But people who aren’t vaccinated at all, and people who only got one dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, are in danger. This variant is putting young, healthy people in the hospital at rates we have not seen before with other COVID-19 variants. And young adults are the group in Philadelphia with the lowest rate of vaccination.
Getting fully vaccinated takes time. You aren’t fully protected until 2 weeks after your last dose of vaccine. So if you go now, you could be safe by that late July date when the storm that is Delta hits. Philly does not need to look like the UK, which is back in the throes of the pandemic. We can keep the joy, the laughter, and the life our city is feeling right now. But only if we act.
It’s never been easier to get a COVID vaccine. There are hundreds of locations, including many that take walk-ins and have evening and weekend hours. There are virtually no lines for shots. And remember that the vaccines are free regardless of whether you have insurance.
And for those of you who got your first dose but missed your second: it’s not too late! Health department-run vaccine clinics are offering second shots for those who need them, as are most pharmacies in the city as well as our partners at Einstein, and Penn. Even if it’s been more than 6 weeks, you’ll still dramatically lower your risk by getting that second shot.
Today marks the first of 3 drawings in the Philly Vaxx Sweepstakes, so in addition to keeping yourself and your city safe, you have the chance to win prizes of up to $50,000 if you get vaccinated in the next few weeks. This is our chance Philly. We can’t afford to miss out.
Cheryl Bettigole, M.D., M.P.H.
Acting Health Commissioner