PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — Friday afternoon, Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter spoke about Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 response and “highlight[ed] preparations being made to continue protecting public health moving beyond the current pandemic phase,” as described by PAcast.

Klinepeter said that with COVID-19 case numbers, hospital admissions, and mortality rates declining, Pennsylvania is “moving in the right direction.” She reiterated that vaccines are the most effective way to protect against severe coronavirus infections and noted that 95% of Pennsylvanians ages 18 and older have received at least one vaccine dose and about 76% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated.

Considering those factors, Klinepeter said that the commonwealth is preparing to transition toward the endemic phase of COVID-19, having developed the tools and knowledge to combat the virus.

Pennsylvania will continue to focus on coronavirus prevention and be prepared to respond to any changes, Klinepeter said, while empowering individuals to make more personal decisions about COVID-19 precautions, assessing the risks for themselves based on community spread, hospitalizations, and deaths from the virus.

In this new phase, Klinepeter said that people may feel more comfortable eating out or going to a museum without a mask, but others may choose to continue masking in all public places and take other precautions based on their own risk assessments.

In terms of masking guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Klinepeter said the state plans to follow CDC guidance. The CDC is expected to loosen its mask guidelines later on Friday.

“I’m really waiting to see what the CDC says later today. As of right now we do still recommend masking indoors regardless of your vaccination status, but I think it’s been pretty well leaked that the CDC is going to soften their guidance later today, and I expect then our Department of Health recommendations will follow the CDC’s,” Klinepeter said.

Pennsylvania lifted its statewide mask mandate for public places last summer, and the commonwealth’s school mask mandate was eliminated by the courts at the end of last year.

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Although Gov. Tom Wolf wouldn’t give away all the details, at an event Friday morning he hinted that his administration is ready to shift more power into the hands of Pennsylvanians.

Wolf suggested that significant changes are coming, saying, “Every individual has the ability to make the right decision and get the vaccine, and while we can relax the other things, I think we all have a heightened sensitivity to what it takes to be healthy when there’s disease out there.”

Wolf also said, “We need to, I think, learn from the past two years and be more attentive to that kind of thing, but basically, we’ve got to make sure that we’re living our lives to the best of our ability.”