‘What You Need to Know:’ COVID-19 numbers, mask mandates and bird feeders are back

Written by on August 20, 2021

‘What You Need to Know:’ COVID-19 numbers, mask mandates and bird feeders are back

By Brad Klein and Jen Rehill

August 20, 2021

Photo by Anna Shvets, Pexels

In our regular Friday feature, “What You Need to Know,” WLVR’s Brad Klein speaks with News Director Jen Rehill about the week’s top local news. This week: a detailed look at the latest COVID-19 numbers in Pennsylvania and locally; mask mandates in Lehigh Valley schools; and some qualified good news from the Pennsylvania Game Commission… bird feeders can go back up, after being discouraged for much of this summer.

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Klein

“Well, Pennsylvania again saw its largest one-day increase of COVID-19 cases just yesterday. Can you break down the numbers?”

Rehill

“Yes, Brad, the state reported more than 3,400 new coronavirus cases yesterday, that’s an increase of about 50% in one day and it’s the biggest spike since May. Now, locally in Northampton and Lehigh counties, they reported a little more than 200 new cases and have seen infections in the region go up by about a third in the past week.”

“Other bad news is hospitalizations are up. According to state data, about 80% of Pennsylvania’s existing intensive care unit beds are full. Now for context on all of that, the state peaked at about 12,000 cases, new cases every day last September during the surge.” 

“But on July 3, there were about 130 new cases, so to go from July 3, 130 new cases to more than 3,000 on Thursday is a pretty big jump.”

Klein

“But we’re still way below the worst days of the pandemic.” 

Rehill

“Yes, the concern is this exponential increase could take us back into a new surge and maybe much more quickly than we were expecting.” 

Klein

“Which brings us to vaccinations. Booster shots have begun for the immunocompromised and they’ll begin at the end of September for those who have had the Moderna or Pfizer shots and those will be available here in the Lehigh Valley.” 

Rehill

“And for right now, folks, as you said, who are immunocompromised, can get those shots at Lehigh Valley Health Network and the Allentown Health Bureau. They can go ahead and get those shots right now.” 

Klein

“And that’s another huge change in the pandemic: The idea that those of us who have had two shots already are probably in line for a third sometime around in the fall.” 

Rehill

“Yeah, that is a big change and it’s definitely a question that we’re getting.”

Klein

“One other question on the subject of the pandemic. We’re hearing from concerned parents about cases among children. How serious is that situation at this point in the Lehigh Valley as far as we can tell?”

Rehill

“Well, the numbers from around the country, Alabama and Florida, are certainly alarming. And here in Pennsylvania, it’s definitely not that bad yet but I will tell you that according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, hospitalizations for children in Pennsylvania are up about 86% this week. So, more than 1,600 kids statewide have been hospitalized since the beginning of August. But for context, that is just 2% of the total number of people hospitalized in the state over the same time period.”

“Now, we don’t have local numbers yet, they’re not available, but we have reached out to the state for more data on new cases and hospitalizations among children and we’ll be reporting that when we have it.”

Klein

“And, of course, that brings us to mask mandates in Lehigh Valley area schools in the Bethlehem Area, Easton Area and Allentown school districts, masks will be required of staff and students in the fall.” 

Rehill

“That’s right. And, so far, at least as far as we know right at this moment, those are the only three school districts in the region with mandates. That’s because state officials are leaving it up to local districts to make their own decisions. The CDC has recommended indoor masking for everyone in schools,children and staff. It would be an understatement to say it’s a divisive issue. Some districts right now are making masking optional. Others are watching and waiting before cementing a final policy.”

Klein

“There really has been some pushback by parents and that’s probably a story we’ll cover in the weeks to come.”

“There is some hopeful news and strangely enough it’s about birds and bird feeders . The Pennsylvania game commission had asked people to take down their bird feeders because of an unknown infectious disease affecting migratory songbirds. The disease is not fully understood yet, but they’ve been able to eliminate bird feeders and birdbaths as a possible cause.”

Rehill

“Brad, that’s a silver lining that I am happy that we’re sharing this week and I have a question for you as our expert on all things avian: What kind of bird feeder should I get from my backyard?” 

Klein

“You know, I think the thing to remember is it’s always great to have natural food sources for birds, trees that give berries and bushes that give nectar for hummingbirds. But I would say a fun feeder to start with is a hummingbird feeder.” 

Rehill

“That’s lovely. OK, that’s on my list.” 

Klein

“Wouldn’t that be fun to have hummingbirds zipping around your window?” 

Rehill

“I think my kids would love it.”

Klein

“Thanks for joining us, Jen.” 

Rehill

“Thank you, Brad.” 

Klein

“That’s Jen Rehill, news director here at WLVR… for more of ‘What You Need to Know,’ sign up for our weekly newsletter at WLVR.org.


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