To slow the spread of the coronavirus, Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close their physical locations March 19. York Daily Record
Early Sunday evening, Montgomery County officials confirmed that a 72-year-old man died from coronavirus.
His is the third Pennsylvania death from the virus, and the first in Montgomery County.
Pennsylvania’s new coronavirus cases topped 100 for the second straight day, the Department of Health announced Sunday afternoon.
There were 108 new cases announced Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 479 in 33 counties.
Five counties have had their first confirmed cases — Columbia, Dauphin, Fayette, Mercer and Schuylkill.
“Our notable increase in cases over the last few days indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home.”
Philadelphia County now has the most positive cases in the state with 91. It jumped ahead of Montgomery County overnight
Because of Philadelphia’s jump in cases, Mayor Jim Kenney ordered all residents to shelter in place beginning at 8 a.m. Monday. The order prohibits all gatherings outside of private residences.
Gov. Tom Wolf Sunday night said he applauds Kenney’s decision and continues to look into if that needs to be done for the entire state.
“We need to look at that because we can’t have what happened in Italy happen here,” Wolf said in a Sunday night news conference. “We need to buy time. If we need to do more, we will.”
Buying time was a recurring theme to Wolf’s news conference. He said his efforts of closing non-life-sustaining businesses and asking people to practice social distancing are all part of buying time.
His fear is that Pennsylvania gets more case than the hospitals can handle.
“If we have a moderate surge [in cases], then we are prepared,” Wolf said of available hospital resources. “If it is greater, then we aren’t prepared.”
Among the other issues Wolf addressed Sunday night:
- He reiterated that enforcement will begin of non-life-sustaining businesses that continue to operate in their physical buildings after 8 a.m. Monday.
- Wolf could not confirm that an agreement is in place to delay the primary, scheduled for April 28. “The legislators understand that the counties have been asking for a postponement because they feel it will be difficult to train poll workers,” he said.
- No decision has been made about extending the mandatory school closing, but he said one will have to be made this week. K-12 schools are scheduled to reopen on March 30.
- Running out of N95 masks is a real possibility. He said manufacturers of other products are looking to see if they can repurpose their lines to produce masks. “If we don’t find those, the healthcare workers are going to be put in harm’s way. We can’t do that,” Wolf said.
- Reopening wine and liquor stores is being discussed. Wolf said he understands that other states are keeping them open and he’s trying to find out the exact reason why. He said it’s clear they aren’t life-sustaining operations, but drug and alcohol treatment officials say that keeping them closed can adversely impact someone’s recovery.
In central Pa., Lancaster County added two positive cases; Adams, Lebanon and York added one case each, while Cumberland and Dauphin held steady at Saturday’s numbers.
Levine said at Sunday’s briefing that she expects the virus to hit new counties in coming days.
“Rural Pennsylvania hasn’t seen as many cases because of their lower population density, but we are seeing cases in new counties every day,” she said. “People who live in rural areas need to be just as aware of the virus, and to practice social distancing.”
Levine said 4,964 patients have tested negative in reports from commercial, hospital and state labs.
In other news on Sunday:
State police will help enforcement
Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, said in a statement Sunday that “troopers and liquor control enforcement officers are prepared to ensure compliance with Governor Wolf’s order.”
Enforcement is set to begin at 8 a.m. Monday, March 23 of Wolf’s Thursday order that closes all non-life-sustaining businesses. After nearly 10,000 waiver requests were filed since the announcement, an updated list of businesses is expected to be released in the next day or two.
“Private businesses, organizations and other noncompliant entities face possible criminal penalties under the Administrative Code of 1929, 71 P.S. § 1409 and/or the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, 35 P.S. § 521.20(a),” Evanchick said. “Both violations are summary offenses punishable by fines and even jail time. Violators may also be subject to additional administrative penalties under certain circumstances.”
Evanchick said he believes most Pennsylvanians want to do their part to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Troopers and liquor control officers will make every effort to achieve voluntary compliance by educating business owners and using discretion when appropriate,” the release said. “But our message is clear: COVID-19 is a serious health and public safety risk that requires an extraordinary response from law enforcement and the public.”
Looking to relieve hospitals
One concern health officials have is that hospitals will get taxed and run out of space if the virus continues to spread.
Officials in other states have talked about using hotels, dorm rooms and cruise ships as possible hospital units.
There is also the possibility of reopening hospitals that have recently closed as replacements were built. UPMC Memorial Hospital falls into that category.
Levine said Sunday that there haven’t been specific discussions about what types of facilities could be used if the state’s hospitals run into space issues. But she said health officials will be looking at all options as hospitals’ needs arise.
State’s food supply “reliable, accessible”
Pennsylvania’s grocery stores, food processors and food banks will remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf said in a news release Sunday.
But he reminds people to remain calm, and to not stockpile food.
“Even in a pandemic, grocery stores and food banks are life-sustaining and accessible; food production and distribution are continuing,” Gov. Wolf said. “I urge all Pennsylvanians to have faith in our local food system. If each one of us commits to only buy what we need; there will be enough for everyone and their neighbors.”
Frances Wolf said the state’s food banks and similar nonprofit agencies are vital.
“Pennsylvania’s charitable food network plays an invaluable role in supporting our communities, and as we all do our part to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, this work is more important than ever,” Frances Wolf said. “Those of us who are fortunate enough to know where our next meal will come from must consider donating our resources or time to supporting our local food banks to ensure that no Pennsylvanian goes hungry — now or ever.”
Pa. coronavirus cases by county
[ The York Daily Record’s coverage of coronavirus is being provided for free to our readers. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing at ydr.com/subscribe. ]
Here’s how many cases each county has, according to figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health as of March 21:
- Statewide total: 479
- Philadelphia County: 91
- Montgomery County: 87
- Delaware County: 43
- Allegheny County: 41 (1 death)
- Bucks County: 32
- Monroe County: 31
- Chester County: 23
- Northampton County: 21 (1 death)
- Lehigh County: 19
- Berks County: 13
- Cumberland County: 11
- York County: 10
- Washington County: 7
- Luzerne County: 7
- Lackawanna County: 6
- Lancaster County: 6
- Adams County: 5
- Westmoreland County: 4
- Lebanon County: 3
- Beaver County: 3
- Pike County: 3
- Wayne County: 2
- Erie County: 2
- Centre County: 1
- Franklin County: 1
- Potter county: 1
- Butler County: 1
- Montour County: 1
- Columbia: 1
- Dauphin: 1
- Fayette: 1
- Mercer: 1
- Schuylkill: 1
What are the symptoms of the coronavirus and what should you do?
According to the CDC, reported illnesses from COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.
Fever, cough and shortness of breath might appear 2 to 14 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus.
If you think you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your primary healthcare provider immediately.
With further spread of the virus and disruptions to everyday life expected, officials remind residents to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
You should also cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow (not your hands), clean surfaces that are frequently touched (such as countertops, light switches and phones), and stay home if you are sick.
People are also asked not to attend large gatherings and to practice “social distancing.”
There is currently neither a vaccine nor an approved treatment for the new, or novel, coronavirus.
While younger people may experience the illness as a bad cold with a fever, the concern is that older people and those who have additional medical conditions will develop a more severe form of COVID-19.
As the disease spreads widely in the population, that could lead to a high number of patients requiring hospitalization for pneumonia or acute lung problems that require the use of a ventilator to breathe.
Shelly Stallsmith is a trends reporter for the York Daily Record. She can be reached at email@example.com or followed on Twitter at @ShelStallsmith.
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