By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia health officials said Wednesday nearly all of the city’s deaths and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in 2021 are among the city’s unvaccinated population. But, as COVID cases continue to rise in the area, the pace has slowed in recent weeks and daily case counts have started to drop in Philadelphia.

The vaccines are working. It’s an echo being heard around the medical community, and Philadelphia now has almost 68% of adults fully vaccinated.

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“I believe that our high vaccine rate is why we’re not seeing all of the cases, the overfilled hospitals, and the deaths that other states with lower vaccine rates are seeing,” Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said.

The acting health commissioner also credits the city’s indoor mask mandate.

Now positive COVID-19 cases, a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, most recently is trending down again.

“We’re seeing an average of 250 new cases per day,” Bettigole said.

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For the first time, Philadelphia is releasing numbers on breakthrough cases — when people test positive even though they are fully vaccinated. Breakthrough cases are rare and the cases usually are not serious.

Unvaccinated Philadelphians, however, account for 96.5% of the COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and 95% of deaths in 2021.

Bettigole said getting vaccinated is especially important for kids.

“Being vaccinated is the best way to protect your loved ones, including and especially children who can’t get vaccinated yet,” Bettigole said.

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Almost a third of all COVID-19 cases in the country are now among children. Health officials say more are being infected — not at school but by unvaccinated adults at home.

Stephanie Stahl