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UPMC experts express concern about rising COVID-19 cases

Doctors in central Pennsylvania say they are worried about mask-optional schools and big crowds pouring into the area for Penn State football games.

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Medical professionals at UPMC Williamsport are monitoring the COVID-19 case count in north-central Pennsylvania. That region and the entire state are seeing an uptick in delta variant cases.

"Typically, it takes around five to eight days for a person to become symptomatic after being exposed to the COVID virus, but with delta, we are seeing people become symptomatic faster nearly three to five days," said Dr. Rutul Dalal, UPMC Williamsport lead infectious disease expert.

The delta variant is nearly 70 percent more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus. Dr. Dalal says it is vital to get vaccinated. According to UPMC, there are 28 people currently hospitalized at UPMC hospitals in the region.

"95 percent of these individuals are unvaccinated, and the people who got breakthrough infections were also having very mild infections."

With cases on the rise, the state of Pennsylvania mandated that all individuals in schools must wear a mask. A few school districts, like Muncy and South Williamsport, have apparently found a loophole and have made mask-wearing optional.

Medical professionals believe this could only add to the asymptomatic spread.

"It is like a vicious cycle. If they get exposed to it, they can asymptomatically transmit the infection to other school-going friends and then take it to their homes."

This weekend, thousands of folks will travel to State College for the Penn State game against Auburn. Combined with fans traveling from the south and from all over the state of Pennsylvania, medical professionals fear this being a super-spreader event.

"Especially since people will be sitting together in close quarters and individuals who are coming in from the southern part of the country and the vaccination rates are pretty poor down there. so, obviously, there is always a risk."

RELATED: How to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in Pennsylvania

Medical professionals still encourage you to get the vaccine. Anyone in need of a vaccine can sign up for one through UPMC.