All of Pennsylvania now under orders to stay home

KYW Staff
April 01, 2020 - 3:04 pm

UPDATED: 5:50 p.m. 

PHILADELPHIA (AP/KYW Newsradio) — All Pennsylvania residents must stay home as much as possible to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday as he dramatically expanded the footprint of the quarantine to include the entire state.

The Democratic governor added 34 counties to his existing stay-at-home order, meaning that residents of all 67 of Pennsylvania's counties are now asked to stay put unless they have a legitimate reason to go out.

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With coronavirus infections continuing to rise dramatically in the state - nearly 1,000 new confirmed cases were reported Wednesday - Wolf called a statewide quarantine "the most prudent option."

"We appreciate the shared sacrifice of all 12.8 million Pennsylvanians; we are in this together," Wolf said in a statement.

The expanded order will take effect at 8 p.m. Wednesday and last through at least April 30.

Residents may leave their homes for a number of reasons  that include working at a business that's still open, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, visiting a doctor, caring for a relative or heading outside to exercise. Police will continue to focus on informing residents of the order rather than on enforcement, according to the governor's office.

Separately, schools and nonessential businesses are closed until further notice.

In other coronavirus developments Wednesday:

State police reduce contact

Pennsylvania State Police will no longer respond in person to some types of calls as the agency tries to limit troopers' contact with the public and slow the spread of the coronavirus, officials announced.

Calls for lost and found, littering, identity theft and general requests to speak to a trooper are among the types of calls that will now be resolved with "limited or no-scene response," state police said in a news release. The new policy took effect Wednesday and will be in place until further notice.

State police said troopers will continue to respond to emergencies.

State Police Commissioner Col. Robert Evanchick said the new policy only applies to a "limited number of call types" and that police will continue responding to critical calls.

State police barracks remain open to the public, though the agency has asked that residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are displaying symptoms to stay away and call instead. Others should be mindful of social distancing guidelines, the agency said.

Cases 

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported more than 960 additional people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number to over 5,800. There were 11 new deaths for a statewide toll of 74.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Philadelphia Union player tests positive

The Philadelphia Union have announced that one of their players has tested positive for COVID-19.

In a release, the Union say their medical staff has been working directly with Crozer-Keystone Health System medical officials to treat the unidentified player.

The player, the team says, experienced mild symptoms and is currently feeling well and in good spirits while observing isolation protocols.

Inmates released

The Allegheny County jail said it released more than 600 inmates in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.

From March 16 through Tuesday afternoon, the jail released 622 inmates, part of a collaboration with judges, prosecutors and others in the court system to thin the population, according to Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs. The effort has resulted in a 25% decline in the jail's inmate count, to more than 1,800.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania cited Allegheny County as a model in asking the state Supreme Court to order the release of some inmates from county jails statewide.

The ACLU said in a petition this week that tight inmate quarters, a lack of sanitation, and a limited ability to treat and quarantine people suspected of having COVID-19 presents an "extraordinary public health risk" to inmates, staff and surrounding communities.

In response, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association said prosecutors and local courts are already "taking measured, individualized approaches" to COVID-19 and jail populations.

Courts still closed

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the closures of all courts until the end of the month.

All criminal and civil courts throughout the state will be closed to the public until April 30, with only a limited number of emergency hearings allowed.

All jury trials have been postponed, and all other matters should be handled electronically or by phone.

AG, banks offer 'CARE Package' 

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro wants to help residents who are struggling right now financially because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Pennsylvania and all of our small businesses need to know their rights and need to be protected," Shapiro said.

So his office has joined forces with banks throughout the state.

Shapiro says the initiative, called the PA CARE Package, serves several purposes.

"Give people a 90-day grace period for mortgages and a 90-day grace period for consumer loans, like auto loans, and a 90-day window for relief from fees and charges like late fees and overdraft fees," Shapiro said.

Foreclosures and evictions are also prohibited for at least 60 days under the initiative.

Trout fishing season delayed

Saturday would have been the opening day for trout fishing across the state, but COVID-19 put the brakes on that.

“Normally, we have an early opener in southeastern Pennsylvania. This year, we’ve pushed that back two weeks to coincide with the statewide opening day,” said Tim Schaeffer, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. “We did that for a number of reasons, but primarily for the health and safety for the anglers and our staff.”

This year, staff have more time to stock trout in the creeks, streams and lakes. Volunteers are prohibited from helping this year because of the pandemic.

The season now starts on April 18.

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KYW Newsradio's Mark Abrams, Andrew Kramer, Matt Leon and Kristen Johanson, as well as the Associated Press, contributed to this report.

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