Coronavirus updates: Central Pa. records first deaths; 533 new positive cases

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Central Pennsylvania has its first deaths related to the coronavirus.

The latest report from the Pennsylvania Department of Health shows that one person each in Cumberland and Lancaster counties have died.

Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center confirmed late Friday its first inpatient death associated with coronavirus.

The deceased patient was in a high-risk category for COVID-19 mortality, according to a release from the hospital. No information was released on the identity or residence of the patient, but a death was not reported in Dauphin County, where the medical center is located.

Pennsylvania’s new positive cases jumped another 533 in the latest report from the state Department of Health.

The numbers are as of midnight Saturday and were released at noon.

That brings the total number of positive cases to 2,751 in 56 counties, which means six counties have their first positive cases — Cameron, Clarion, Huntingdon, Perry, Snyder and Tioga.

The department also reported 12 new deaths, bringing the total to 34.

Shortly after Saturday’s numbers were released, Gov. Tom Wolf expanded his “stay at home” order to Beaver, Centre and Washington counties. The order takes effect at 8 p.m. Saturday and runs through April 6.

That brings the number of counties under the order to 22. York and Lancaster counties were added on Friday.

PennDOT has extended expiration dates for driver licenses and ID cards, learner’s permits, persons with disability placards, vehicle registrations and safety and emission inspections. Items that were due to expire from March 16 to April 30, 2020 will now expire on May 31, 2020.

The United States swept past the 100,000 mark in positive cases early Saturday, and there are at least 1,700 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University data dashboard

In other news Saturday:

  • Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture  received approval to operate a Disaster Household Distribution program through the Emergency Food Assistance Program. That means more food can be distributed across the state because they are temporarily waiving the need to verify household eligibility.
  • WITF reported Saturday that as many as 180 immigrants held in York County Prison are refusing to eat in response to their treatment in the coronavirus pandemic. The ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit seeking the immediate release more than a dozen detainees who have preexisting conditions that put them at greater risk of getting the coronavirus.

State reinforcing health care system

Wolf announced Saturday that the state is streamlining the process for retired doctors, nurses, medical students, pharmacists and other healthcare workers to practice in the state.

“We have streamlined the process for retired health care workers to return to work and provide relief so those on the frontline can focus on providing care to patients,” Wolf said. “We’re also expanding the use of telemedicine and supporting and protecting health care workers by helping to purchase the necessary equipment and supplies they will need.”

The Department of State has announced a series of temporary licensing waivers for health care professionals during the pandemic. The waivers reduce administrative barriers to bring these professionals onto the front line.

The temporary license waivers include:

  • Streamlining reactivation of licenses for retired medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine, physician assistants, respiratory therapists, perfusionists, registered nurses, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse practitioners and pharmacists.
  • Allowing licensed health care practitioners to provide services via telemedicine and doctors with institutional licenses to practice at more than two facilities.
  • Allowing more than 14,000 certified registered nurse practitioners to assist in the response by lifting the requirement that they practice within a specialty.
  • Extending license deadlines, temporary nursing permits and graduate permits and allowing certain nursing school graduates to apply for an immediate graduate permit.
  • Allowing out-of-state pharmacies to ship goods to Pennsylvania and allowing temporary expedited licensure for certain pharmacy practitioners and pharmacies.

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‘No confirmed cases’ in state prison system

As of Saturday, the state Department of Corrections is now sharing basic COVID-19 information and statistics on its website, according to a news release.

“I believe that it is vitally important to share some basic information to quell any rumors circulating out in the community,” Secretary John Wetzel said. “As of today, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases among our inmates.”

Wetzel said inmates have access to “robust medical staff and operations” and that “every inmate who meets criteria for testing will be tested.”

The department’s website will include information on lockdowns and quarantines should they be necessary, video visitation statistics and how the DOC is working to reduce the inmate population to better manage the virus should it hit the prison system.

Steps taken to reduce the population so far include:

  • Furloughing paroled individuals from centers to home plans;
  • Working with the parole board to maximize parole releases;
  • Reviewing parole detainers for individuals in county jails and state prisons;
  • Expediting the release process for anyone with a pending approved home plan;
  • Reviewing inmates within the state prison system who are beyond their minimum sentences.

More coronavirus coverage:

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How many coronavirus cases does Pa. have? 

Pennsylvania has had xx confirmed cases of the new coronavirus as of Saturday, according to the Department of Health. Here’s a look at the numbers in Pennsylvania:

Confirmed cases: 2,751 

New cases: 533 new as of March 28

Deaths: 34

Counties with at least one case: 56

Patients who tested negative: 25,254 

Pa. coronavirus cases by county

Here are how many confirmed cases and deaths each county in Pennsylvania has as of March 28: 

  • Adams County: 8
  • Allegheny County: 219 (2 deaths)
  • Armstrong County: 2 
  • Beaver County: 22 
  • Berks County: 65
  • Blair County: 2
  • Bradford County: 3
  • Bucks County: 152
  • Butler County:  41 (2 deaths)
  • Cambria County: 1
  • Cameron County: 1
  • Carbon County: 3
  • Centre County: 15
  • Chester County: 116
  • Clarion County: 1
  • Clearfield County: 2
  • Columbia County: 4
  • Crawford County: 2
  • Cumberland County: 22 (1 death)
  • Dauphin County: 23
  • Delaware County: 226 (4 deaths) 
  • Erie County: 7
  • Fayette County: 10
  • Franklin County: 7
  • Greene County: 6
  • Huntingdon County: 1
  • Indiana County: 2
  • Juniata County: 1
  • Lackawanna County: 51 (2 deaths)
  • Lancaster County: 45 (1 death)
  • Lawrence County: 8
  • Lebanon County: 15 
  • Lehigh County: 109 (3 deaths)
  • Luzerne County: 65 (2 deaths)
  • Lycoming County: 2
  • Mercer County: 6
  • Monroe County: 106 (2 deaths)
  • Montgomery County: 411 (5 deaths) 
  • Montour County: 5
  • Northampton County: 94 (4 deaths)
  • Northumberland County: 1
  • Perry County: 1
  • Philadelphia County: 709 (5 death)
  • Pike County: 27 (1 death)
  • Potter County: 2
  • Schuylkill County: 16
  • Snyder County: 1
  • Somerset County: 2 
  • Susquehanna: 1
  • Tioga County: 1
  • Warren County: 1
  • Washington County: 23
  • Wayne County: 6 
  • Westmoreland County: 41
  • York County: 37

Coronavirus symptoms, testing 

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 for guidance, including whether you should be tested. 

Preventing the spread

There is currently neither a vaccine nor an approved treatment for the new, or novel, coronavirus. While many people might only get mild symptoms, older adults and those who already have medical issues can end up with more serious complications. There’s concern that a fast spread of the virus could overwhelm the health system to provide care, including the need for respirators in serious cases. 

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.” It’s best to keep six feet apart from other people you don’t live with. 

Shelly Stallsmith is a trends reporter for the York Daily Record. She can be reached at mstallsmith@ydr.com or followed on Twitter at @ShelStallsmith.

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