Gov. Wolf requests major disaster declaration for additional coronavirus relief as number of cases continues to rise

KYW Staff
March 29, 2020 - 10:53 am

UPDATED: 5:30 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Tom Wolf requested a major disaster declaration from the White House Sunday, in order to provide extra support for state, county and municipal governments, as well as people struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.

Pennsylvania has been under an emergency declaration since March 6, allowing for federal support during the crisis, including reimbursement of eligible protective expenses.

If approved, a major disaster declaration would provide access to programs including Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program, and Statewide Hazard Mitigation.

In a statement, Gov. Wolf said the coronavirus pandemic has taxed Pennsylvania in "almost incomprehensible" ways. 

"I am calling on the President and the federal government to make available to us the assistance that will make a tangible difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors, and the dedicated public servants who are working in overdrive to support them," he appealed.

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Updates on cases in Pennsylvania

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine reported an additional 643 positive coronavirus cases Sunday, bringing the state's total to 3,394 cases.

In addition, Levine announced four additional deaths. 38 people have died of COVID-19 to date in Pennsylvania.

She added 64 confirmed cases are in nursing homes. The overall majority of cases are in southeastern Pennsylvania.

"Our notable increase in cases over the past week indicates we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously," Levine stressed. "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 health officials announced 84 new positive cases Sunday, for a citywide total of 890. Of that total, 78 patients have been hospitalized.

The Health Department also confirmed four new deaths, three of whom were nursing home residents. To date, eight Philadelphians have died from the virus.

The city is not confirming any locations of nursing home cases.

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley warned these numbers might be underreported, as two testing labs did not send reports over the weekend.

Montgomery County officials Sunday announced an additional 27 positive cases, bringing the countywide total to 431 cases.

Department of Corrections' first case 

In a statement Sunday, Department of Corrections Sec. John Wetzel announced the department’s first inmate who tested positive for coronavirus. 

“An inmate at SCI Phoenix (Montgomery County) with underlying health conditions has tested positive for COVID-19,” Wetzel said in a statement. “The inmate is in the prison’s infirmary and is isolated from other inmates.”

The department said there are isolation rooms to handle cases like these, and all inmates in the housing unit are now under quarantine. 

Other inmates who interacted with the inmate are in isolation to a “specific housing unit,” while employees who had contact with the inmate are being monitored for symptoms.

KYW's Justin Udo contributed to this report.

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