By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Even though restrictions are easing after a steady decline, COVID-19 case counts are going up again. It’s a trend being seen around the country, as well as in all three states in our region.

At the same time, there has been a steady increase in vaccinations.

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It will be one year tomorrow since the first COVID case was confirmed in Philadelphia.

While the virus has killed more than 3,000 city residents, the health commissioner says precautions and restrictions saved just as many.

“Overall, it’s been a long, difficult year for everyone. More than 120,000 have been knowingly infected,” Dr. Thomas Farley said Tuesday.

The health commissioner says the daily coronavirus case count had been down to 250 and is now up to 330 — much lower than the surge but going in the wrong direction.

He says he’s hoping to avoid new restrictions.

“We’d like to address that by just reminding people they shouldn’t let down their guard right now,” Dr. Farley said. “We need to try to reinforce the message around masks and staying away from people through indoor gatherings.”

But Dr. Farley says he’s optimistic about better controlling the virus with a continued increase of vaccines to the city. Philadelphia has now administered 421,000 doses and is planning to open more community-centered vaccination centers.

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“We have had some problems that have been seen around the country,” he said.

The issue being line jumping — people who shouldn’t be getting vaccinated are and those who need it most aren’t.

The city has now started to call people at high-risk and will adjust its software to prevent vaccine invites from being shared. But the issue of people falsely claiming to have medical conditions can’t be fixed.

“There’s no way for us to verify if someone says they have diabetes, whether they have it or not. We’re asking people to be honest,” Dr. Farley said.

There’s also an issue with pharmacies not enforcing guidelines.

“The pharmacies are good at getting vaccine out quickly. A lot of pharmacies can deliver a lot of doses in a hurry. They’re less good at racial equity, so that’s a problem,” said. Dr. Farley. “I would prefer they had a more diverse group they’re vaccinating.”

Rite Aid is one of the largest providers and has given a disproportionate number of vaccinations to white recipients even though there are more Black people in Philadelphia.

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It is also distributing a lot of doses to people who don’t live in the city. A Rite Aid spokesperson says they’re working to improve their system.

Stephanie Stahl