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Pennsylvania health official: State residents could be wearing masks through 'end of 2021'

Pennsylvania health official: State residents could be wearing masks through 'end of 2021'
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Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said Thursday that people in the state could be wearing masks through the end of next year depending on when the first batches of a COVID-19 vaccine arrive. 

The state could receive its first doses next month, PennLive.com reports, but this early supply would only be reserved for front-line health care workers, first responders, the elderly and people in group health care settings. 

High-risk populations would then be vaccinated, followed by the general public, according to the news outlet. 

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“We anticipate we’re going to be rolling this out through the winter and then into the spring and into the summer,” Levine said, according to PennLive.com.

“It could take a significant amount of time to immunize everyone in Pennsylvania. I anticipate we’re going to be wearing masks well into 2021, maybe to the end of 2021,” she said.

Pfizer and BioNTech filed for emergency approval of their COVID-19 vaccine on Friday after unveiling data that shows the vaccine being 95 percent effective. Moderna, whose vaccine has shown similar efficacy, is expected to file for emergency approval soon. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Thursday that between the two candidates, the U.S. expects to have 40 million doses available by the end of the year, enough to vaccinate about 20 million people.

Pennsylvania’s plan for distributing the vaccine is already approved, PennLive.com notes, and Levine said the state is ready to distribute the vaccine once it arrives. However, the state needs federal funding for “logistical matters.” 

Pennsylvania reported 7,126 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, the news outlet notes, a new record for the state. The state has seen 288,978 cases since the pandemic began.