Coronavirus updates: Pa. residents asked to wear masks if they leave house; 1,400 new cases

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As 1,404 additional cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed in Pennsylvania Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf asked the state’s residents to start using a face covering if they leave the house

“If you absolutely must leave home, wear a cotton mask,” Wolf said. 

The state’s total confirmed cases rose to 8,420 on Friday, and deaths soared into the hundreds with 102 fatalities reported statewide. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is not listing the amount of pending tests for the coronavirus, but 53,695 patients have tested negative.

In southcentral Pennsylvania, Lancaster County had 232 cases and five deaths as of Friday, while York County had 121 cases and one death. Other county totals include: Adams, 19 cases; Cumberland, 45 cases and two deaths; Dauphin, 79 cases and one death; Franklin, 26 cases; and Lebanon, 54 cases. 

Pennsylvania will stop paying about 9,000 state workers whose offices have been closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Friday.

Paid leave for state employees whose work locations are closed and who are unable to work remotely will end April 10, according to Wolf’s Office of Administration. About 5,700 of the affected workers are employed by PennDOT. 

There were more than 245,500 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. early Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the death toll topped 53,000 and the virus had infected more than 1.6 million people.

Wolf’s recommendation to wear a face covering when you go out comes as President Donald Trump said his administration is close to providing recommendations on whether or not Americans should don face masks. Trump said whatever federal guidance is offered wouldn’t be mandatory.

More: Pa. residents asked to wear masks when going out to help slow coronavirus spread

“I think they’re going to be coming out with regulations on that. If people want to abide them, frankly — I don’t think they’ll be mandatory because some people don’t want to do that,” Trump said Thursday during a lengthy White House news conference. “If people wanted to wear them, they can. If people wanted to use scarves, they can.”

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Since the beginning of the outbreak, the U.S. government has said masks are not needed for the general public — and they have encouraged businesses with large stockpiles of masks to donate them to hospitals and other medical facilities. But health officials, including in Pennsylvania, are starting to encourage wearing some kind of covering over your mouth and nose when you’ll be in contact with other people.  

When will Pa. cases peak? 

So far, Pennsylvania hospitals have not been strained, Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesman Nate Wardle said. 

But they will be in a couple weeks, according to a study from the University of Washington.

Pennsylvania will have more than 7,400 patients hospitalized, about 90 intensive care unit beds and need more than 900 life-saving ventilators on April 18, according to that study.

That same University of Washington study shows that deaths could peak at 79 per day in Pennsylvania by April 19 and that more than 2,000 people in the state could die from the coronavirus by Aug. 4.

But the University of Washington study, cited by Trump, drew criticism from some of the nation’s top infectious disease experts because it relies heavily on strict quarantines like those in place in Wuhan, China. 

New York University experts predict spread, hospitalizations and deaths to be three to four times higher than what’s shown in the University of Washington study, according to a USA Today report.  

Hospitalizations in Pa.

The number of coronavirus patients in Pennsylvania hospitals is increasing by more than 100 people per day.  

As of noon Friday, the state reported more than 850 hospitalizations. That’s up from more than 300 Saturday and more than 600 on Wednesday. 

State health officials say they are not releasing a county-by-county breakdown of where the hospitalizations are at this time. About half of all hospitalizations involve patients 65 and older, while 78% involve those age 50 and older. 

There are 241 patients are in intensive care units and 147 are using life-saving ventilators, Wardle said. 

Ventilators are machines that help patients breathe or do the breathing for them, and they are in critical demand across the country.

Pennsylvania has about 2,000 ventilators across the state, and Gov. Tom Wolf this week said he would like to have about 1,000 to 1,400 more. 

About 10 percent of the people who test positive for COVID-19 need to be hospitalized, state data shows. 

There are about 37,000 hospital beds, including 3,400 ICU beds, throughout Pennsylvania, according to the state Department of Health.

That’s enough to meet current demands, but state officials and hospitals say they are working to increase capacity as they prepare for a surge of coronavirus patients. 

“We anticipate new cases and new hospitalizations to continue to increase for several weeks, and our hospitalizations will increase even after the positive cases start to moderate,” Wardle said.  

There is no proven treatment plan for the coronavirus, and there is no vaccine. State officials have tried to reduce  hospitalizations by preventing people from getting the disease. They’ve issued several rounds of stay-at-home orders and repeated calls for social distancing. 

“If the exponential rise continues without plateauing, it will have serious consequences for our hospitals and health system,” Wardle said. 

In other news Thursday:  

  • Dutch Wonderland is postponing their May 2 season opener. The 2020 Season Pass will be extended through the end of June 2021.  
  • WellSpan has increased its network of non-emergency care locations for COVID-19 patients to 10 locations across southcentral Pennsylvania by next week. The sites include Adams Health Center and Family Medicine – Cross Keys in Adams County; Shippensburg Health Campus in Cumberland County; Urgent Cares in Chambersburg, Lititz, Manchester and Shrewsbury; Pediatric Medicine – Tuck Street in Lebanon County and OB/GYN and Pediatric Medicine in York County.
  • Sheetz announced Friday night that an employee in the store at 1790 Millersville Rd, Lancaster, has tested positive for COVID-19. The store has been closed and will be professionally deep cleaned and disinfected, according to a news release. The gas pumps will also be sanitized and cleaned. Officials are following guidelines set by the state DOH and CDC in regard to contacting employees.

More coronavirus coverage: 

How many coronavirus cases does Pa. have?  

Pennsylvania has had 8,420 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus as of Friday, according to the Department of Health. Here’s a look at the numbers in Pennsylvania:

Confirmed cases: 8,420

New cases: 1,404 new cases as of April 3

Deaths: 102

Counties with at least one case: 63

Patients who tested negative: 53,695

Pa. coronavirus cases by county 

Here are how many confirmed cases and deaths each county in Pennsylvania has as of April 3:  

  • Adams County: 19
  • Allegheny County: 476 (2 deaths)
  • Armstrong County: 11
  • Beaver County: 65 (2 deaths)
  • Bedford County: 3
  • Berks County: 201 (1 death)
  • Blair County: 4
  • Bradford County: 9
  • Bucks County: 446 (8 deaths)
  • Butler County: 75 (2 deaths)
  • Cambria County: 4
  • Cameron: 1
  • Carbon County: 34 (1 death)
  • Centre County: 32
  • Chester County: 226 (2 death)
  • Clarion: 4
  • Clearfield: 5
  • Columbia County: 15
  • Crawford County: 5
  • Cumberland County: 45 ( 2 death)
  • Dauphin: 79 (1 death)
  • Delaware County: 542 (10 deaths) 
  • Erie County: 17
  • Fayette: 20 (1 death)
  • Forest: 1
  • Franklin County: 26
  • Greene: 11
  • Huntingdon: 3
  • Indiana: 7
  • Juniata County: 5
  • Lackawanna County: 119 (4 deaths)
  • Lancaster County: 232 (5 deaths)
  • Lawrence: 19 (2 deaths) 
  • Lebanon County: 54
  • Lehigh County: 584 (5 deaths)
  • Luzerne County: 484 (5 deaths)
  • Lycoming County: 8
  • Mckean: 1
  • Mercer: 10
  • Mifflin: 2
  • Monroe County: 397 (10 deaths)
  • Montgomery County: 875 (11deaths) 
  • Montour County: 16
  • Northampton County: 466 (10 deaths)
  • Northumberland: 8
  • Perry: 4 (1 death)
  • Philadelphia: 2,284 (14 deaths)
  • Pike County: 83 (1 death) 
  • Potter County: 2
  • Schuylkill: 63
  • Snyder: 4 (1 death)
  • Somerset County: 3
  • Susquehanna: 4
  • Tioga: 3
  • Union: 3
  • Venango: 3
  • Warren: 1
  • Washington County: 40
  • Wayne County: 23
  • Westmoreland County: 110
  • Wyoming: 2
  • York County: 121 (1 death) 

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. 

USA Today and the Associated Press contributed to this article.  

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