Confirmed coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania jump 40%

KYW Staff
March 19, 2020 - 12:49 pm

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UPDATED: 6:08 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered "all non-life-sustaining businesses" to close starting 8 p.m. Thursday night. The order came late Thursday afternoon.

He said enforcement actions against businesses that do not close their physical locations will begin on Saturday. There will be special exemptions for businesses that are supplying or servicing healthcare providers.

Restaurants are still allowed to offer takeout meals.

Related: The latest coronavirus news from Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Click here to see a full list of business types in relation to the order. 

Pennsylvania reported another big jump in confirmed coronavirus Thursday. The state Department of Health confirmed that there are 52 additional positive cases of COVID-19 reported, bringing the statewide total to 185, up about 40%.

The state reported one death on Wednesday, an adult from Northampton County. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital.

"Our notable increase in cases over the last few days and our first death in Pennsylvania indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement released by the health department. "We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home."

There are 1,608 patients who have tested negative, and one death. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending.

Meanwhile, Wolf's administration said it created a waiver process to keep open child care centers that serve families of health care workers and first responders on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus. Wolf on Monday ordered child care centers to close, with narrow exceptions.

Unemployment compensation filings eased off a bit in Pennsylvania. Wednesday's claims hit 54,000, a day after reaching 70,000. That's according to the state Department of Labor and Industry, following Wolf's Monday order for nonessential businesses to shut down.

Montgomery County numbers go up 

Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh announced 13 new cases in the county, bringing the county total to 55. 

She said a drive-thru testing site will open at Temple University's Ambler site starting Saturday.

Arkoosh emphasized the importance of social distancing, only going outside to get essential things, such as groceries and medicine. 

Delaware County gets support from Chester County

Officials in Chester County have volunteered their health department's resources to help neighboring Delaware County.

Delaware County is one of 57 counties in the state that does not have its own health department. Like those other counties, Delaware County has been reliant on the state's health department to handle the coronavirus outbreak.

County Council Chair Brian Zidek said lack of information from the state left them unable to help residents like they want to.

"We don't know how many people have been tested. We don't know how many people have been quarantined. Those who do test positive, we are not given information on where they might live," Zidek said.

Chester County Commissioner Mary Moskowitz said the state health department initially questioned their assistance to Delaware County, but she said they're sure they can take on the responsibility.

"Chester County does have sufficient excess capacity to handle Delaware County's public health needs, as well as Chester County's needs, during this outbreak," she said.

Chester County Health Director Jeanne Casner said they just got approval from the state to go through with their plan.

"We'll be coordinating and implementing activities that relate to medical advice and medical needs, investigation, and contact tracing of all positive cases in both counties. Communications to healthcare providers, first responders, community based organizations," she said.

Officials say Delaware County will pick up whatever costs the state does not cover.

Bucks County sees first pediatric case 

There are now 14 confirmed cases in Bucks County, including the first pediatric case. 

"We are starting to see potentially our first indications of some community spread. We obviously know that Montgomery County has declared community spread there so we know it's just a matter of time until we start to have it here. The last couple of cases before today, we were not able to determine a specific point of infection,” said Dr. David Damsker, the county's health director.

Damsker said health department staffers are making visits to restaurants providing take-out food service, to make sure all food safety guidelines are being followed.

Officials also say a request has been made to the state to get supplies such as masks and other resources from the Strategic National Stockpile.

Berks County confirms its first case 

Berks County has its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, and officials say they expect more cases are on the horizon. 

“This was not a surprise to anyone. Our hearts and prayers are with this individual, with their family. But the message to the public is there will be more,” said Christian Leinbach, chairman of the Berks County Commissioners and chief spokesman for a COVID-19 task force.

Leinbach said state health officials shared the news Wednesday that a case had been diagnosed in Berks, but provided no details other than the person had contact with a health facility in the county.

On Thursday, Leinbach said the Berks County COVID-19 Help Center was established in Bern Township and a special hotline was activated for residents to call if they have concerns or questions at 610-320-6150. It will be staffed seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

The center can also be reached by way of email: COVID@CountyOfBerks.com.

Leinbach said right now, he’s asking all to be attentive to limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

“That’s our focus. Not saying I’m going to stay away from this area because I heard the person is from this area. There’s just as great a chance that the person you’re next to right now could indeed be a carrier and/or have the virus,” he added.

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KYW Newsradio's Justin Udo, Mark Abrams, John McDevitt. Antionette Lee and Eric Walter, and the Associated Press, contributed to this report.