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COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations on the rise, but is a vaccine on the way?

Newswatch 16 spoke with a local epidemiologist to find out what all of this means

SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, Pa. — Graphs and data show that coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are on the uptick across the state, but it's also important to note that testing is at an all-time high. So what should we make of it?

"When we see the testing numbers go up, and we see the testing positivity numbers go up, then we are really concerned that's going to hit the hospital in terms of number of admissions and express care," said Dr. Alex Benjamin, chief of infection control and epidemiology for Lehigh Valley Health Network.

That surge in cases and hospitalizations also includes Schuylkill County, and health officials say that some common symptoms that usually might occur this time of year could still be COVID-19, so it's important to exercise caution.

"That's probably the thing in the community that I worry most about. 'Oh, it's allergies, it's sinuses. I just went to the store. I only went to a restaurant last night, and it seemed OK.' I think when we let our guards down about those things that we are at risk of contracting infection, and if you're asymptomatic, you may be out in the community causing harm to other people."

RELATED: COVID-19 update: 3,402 new cases

RELATED: Pfizer: COVID-19 vaccine is looking 90% effective

There is some potential good news on the horizon. The company Pfizer says that early results from its coronavirus vaccine suggest the shots may be 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19, but health officials add there are still some things to work through.

"We don't know what kind of population received the vaccine, so if it's all young, healthy people with no medical problems, that's helpful, but we deal with people all the time who have co-morbidities, hypertension, obesity, diabetes. We don't know race or ethnicity data on some of this stuff, so we don't know if it works better in some populations."