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The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on Sept. 24, 2021. Credit: Oscar Vasquez

While Pennsylvania hospitals remain understaffed, state health officials voice hope amid decreasing COVID-19 case counts.

Philadelphia's COVID-19 cases have declined by at least 50% since last week, PhillyVoice reported. Compared to last week's rate of 2,000 cases per day, the city reported an average of 996 daily cases this week, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole told PhillyVoice.

Although the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to comprise 98% of Philadelphia COVID-19 cases, the variant likely reached its peak two weeks ago, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. This decrease in cases continues last week's downward trend.

Despite this trend, health officials caution that the pandemic is not yet over. Pennsylvania's hospitals are occupied at least 10% beyond capacity while also experiencing a continued shortage of healthcare workers, The Inquirer reported.

“What we need people to understand is that [even] with this encouraging news, it’s not that this is over. If we have a continued letting down of the guard, we are in fact, going to see this pick up again," Gerald Maloney, Geisinger Health System’s chief medical officer, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently started employing strike teams, composed of out-of-state health care workers, who are sent to overwhelmed hospitals in the state seeking help, the Associated Press reported.

Beyond hospitals, the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt across the state. Pennsylvania’s state prisons have halted in-person visits until the end of February due to staff shortages, while Bucks County officials suspended jury trials through February, The Inquirer reported.

Universities, including Penn and Temple University, have established stricter masking guidelines in light of the variant's high transmission.

Philadelphia officials continue to enforce its new indoor dining vaccination mandate and encourage residents to get vaccinated. As of Jan. 27, over 975,000 Philadelphia residents are fully vaccinated, according to the city's COVID-19 vaccine dashboard.