May 28 Pennsylvania COVID-19 Update

BELOW:

  • Daily report from DoH re COVID-19 cases
  • Wolf and Levine answer questions
  • Relief, Reopening and Recovery plan released online
  • House Member tested positive for COVID-19, others self-quarantining
  • Wolf thanks businesses

 
WEDNESDAY’S REPORT FROM DoH
The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Wednesday confirmed that, as of 12:00 a.m., May 27, there were 780 new positive cases of COVID-19, in the prior 24 hours in Pennsylvania, bringing the statewide total to 69,417. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania have cases of COVID-19.
 
There are 5,265 total deaths attributed to COVID-19, an increase of 113 new deaths. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here
 
There are 576 patients who have a positive serology test and either COVID-19 symptoms or a high-risk exposure, which are considered probable cases and not confirmed cases. There are 349,990 patients who have tested negative to date. Of the patients who have tested positive to date the age breakdown is as follows:
 

  • Nearly 1% are ages 0-4;
  • Nearly 1% are ages 5-12;
  • Nearly 2% are ages 13-18;
  • Nearly 6% are ages 19-24; 
  • Nearly 37% are ages 25-49; 
  • 25% are ages 50-64; and
  • 28% are ages 65 or older.

 
Most of the patients hospitalized are ages 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. More data is available here.  Levine said the state estimates that 62% of the positive cases have “recovered,” and not shown any new symptoms over the last 30 days.  She said we now have 13 confirmed cases of MIS-C in children from 11 months to 13 years of age and ten cases under investigation. 
 
In nursing and personal care homes, there are 14,990 resident cases of COVID-19, and 2,528 cases among employees, for a total of 17,518 at 596 distinct facilities in 44 counties. Out of our total deaths, 3,469 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. A county breakdown can be found here.
 
Approximately 5,216 of Pennsylvania’s total cases are in health care workers. 
 
For the latest information for individuals, families, businesses and schools, visit “Responding to COVID-19” on pa.gov.
 
Statewide – The Wolf Administration has since noon, May 26:

 
For the latest information for individuals, families, businesses and schools, visit “Responding to COVID-19” on pa.gov.
 
Non-life-sustaining businesses in the red phase are ordered to be closed and schools are closed statewide through the remainder of the academic year. Currently, 49 counties are in the yellow phase of reopening. Eight additional counties will move to yellow and 17 to green on May 29. All remaining red counties are expected to move to yellow by June 5.
 
Q/As with Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine
Wolf and Levine’s message for the day was thank you’s to businesses who have helped stem the COVID-19 by helping provide equipment and supplies.  Levine listed the numbers and totals of various PPE, supplies and products that the state has provided to hospitals, EMS providers, nursing homes, prisons, etc.
 
New York Counties are providing county by county information on the number of positives who have recovered from COVID-19.  If we want info on how many cases have recovered here, are there any plans to announce numbers of recovered patients by county?  LEVINE: This is an estimate, so we have no plans to get that granular and we will stay with the statewide recovery total.
 
Are residential treatment facilities included in SNFs and personal care homes?  LEVINE: We’ve been concentrating where seniors live.  They are the most vulnerable and have the most chronic medical conditions.  We have tried to include all those facilities.
 
As people start to travel in the summer, any guidance or precautions about using public rest rooms, or visiting family and friends?   LEVINE: We want people to social distance, wash hands on a frequent basis, use hand sanitizer, wear masks, take precautions to avoid exposure.
 
Should parents in the yellow zone allow their children to have play dates, and under what circumstances would that be okay?   LEVINE: If counties are in yellow that means caution – and I would not recommend that.
 
What is the contact tracing team finding out about people testing positive – are there any commonalities-have they traveled, attended large events or traveled?  LEVINE:  Most have not attended large gatherings or significant travel.  Most of the positives are associated with outbreaks, or in the food industry or in stores, but there is still community spread in PA and that is how people get exposed.
 
With a large number expected and mail delays of 8-10 days, has there been any thought to extending the deadline for mail in ballots beyond the already established deadlines?  WOLF:I would be supportive of that, but it would take legislation and I am not aware of any legislation or interest on the part of the General Assembly.
 
Would you be able to do that by executive order given the absence of legislative action?  WOLF: I don’t think so.  I think that requires legislation by the General Assembly.
 
The Department of State says that counties cannot mandate that voters wear masks at the polls.  Can the Governor’s Office, Department of Health or the General Counsel provide justification for that position?  WOLF: I don’t know but we’ll look into that and get back to you.
 
Restaurants, bars, barbers, salons, local sports teams, etc. realize they can open on a limited basis tomorrow in green counties, but are asking for specific guidelines.  Do you have a document outlining the guidelines for the green phase?  WOLF: Guidelines will be posted later today, and if there are questions, we will post up to date FAQs, and if there are still doubts or questions, I certainly want to hear about them.
 
Can you explain what happened to have the Administration appoint an acting Commandant at the SE Veterans Center?  WOLF: Just the general concern among a lot of people that we ought to be taking a look at the situation at that Veterans Center.
 
Your guidance calls for customers to wear masks.  Can you clarify whether a business that serves the public should refuse to allow entry to customers who refuse to wear masks in green counties? How is the mask requirement changed for those counties?   WOLF: I think we’ve left it up to the individual businesses to make that decision.  It’s their property their business and they have the right to exercise the “no shirt, no shoes, no service,” idea here.
 
Lycoming County is not moving to green on Friday, but the county commissioners have requested that status. They are rural and were among the first to go yellow.  Why was the county not included in those that are going green Friday? WOLF: We look at a lot of factors, including risk, and it was our assessment that Lycoming County was not ready to go to green.
 
What’s next after counties go green?  WOLF: That’s a great question.  I think, for all of us there is a new normal, and at this point, I can’t tell.  I would hope we get a vaccine or therapies.  Companies are working feverishly on that.  So we’re all waiting.  We don’t have enough testing yet. As to the future beyond green, I think we’re all still working on that. LEVINE: We see wearing masks into the foreseeable future, along with social distancing.  There are therapies being developed and a vaccine would be remarkable.  We will continue our testing and expand our testing, we have an aspirational testing plan with a rapid point of care test, but that is the future right now in green zones.
 
Sen. Haywood is asking for an extension to count ballots – are you considering that?  WOLF: I’m not sure what he’s asking for, but I would have supported a two week extension before the election, so we have moved the counting up to 7 a.m. on election day.  It will take as long as it takes, and that’s what counties and communities will do there.
 
Are you aware of the backlog in receiving ballots?  In many southeastern counties it’s between 10 days and two weeks from request to receiving the mail ballots. WOLF: Yeah, I don’t know what to say, my wife and I ap
plied in York County and it took a couple of weeks.
 
Can people vote at the polls if they registered for a mail in ballot and did not receive it in time to mail?  WOLF: Yes, they can vote by provisional ballot, I think, but we’ll get someone to confirm that.
 
What is your biggest regret or policy decision choice that you would change in the response to the COVID-19 crisis?  WOLF: That’s a good question.  I think it’s too early to start talking about regrets.  I think that down the road when we look back on things, there will inevitably be things that we say maybe we should have done this, or that.  But right now, like every other decision maker around the world we are trying to make decisions that keep people safe. Decisions on the run and we’re doing the best we can.
 
What do you say to restaurant owners who say they can’t survive at 50% occupancy in the green zone?  WOLF: This is a situation that all businesses with a certain business model under one set of circumstances may have to change. We have been working with the PA Restaurant and Lodging Association, to develop guidelines.  Again, it’s not a matter of regulations, it’s about what’s going to make patrons feel safe about going back, what’s going to make employees feel safe going back, and keep the virus at bay, whether you’re a restaurant owner or a policy maker that has to be your first responsibility. It is mine.
 
Will drivers licensing centers be able to start testing for drivers license exams?  WOLF: Yes in the yellow.
 
Minor League baseball has been placed on hold during the pandemic.  Do you have any ideas or guidance for when those teams can again begin?    WOLF: We have been working with sports organizations to put out guidelines they can follow.  They are all out and we’re very happy to look at expanding them.
 
If a county moves from red to yellow or yellow to green, and employees still don’t feel safe going back to work, will they still be allowed to collect unemployment benefits until the state reopens to its full capacity?  WOLF: That’s done on a case by case basis.  And employees have a number of avenues of appeal including to the UC system.
 
Some businesses that announced they are opening before approval have been victims of crimes or vandalism.  Will you still encourage full prosecution of those who attack those businesses despite the businesses opening before approval? WOLF: I don’t know what you mean by prosecution, but yeah, if they are breaking the law, local law enforcement officials should enforce the law. Licensing organizations should make sure that the businesses are compliant.  But I think again the big challenge here is keeping people safe. If I’m a business owner, I want to keep my employees safe.  I want to keep my customers safe.
 
Will the upcoming green phase guidelines be enforceable by law, or are they just guidelines that are suggested? WOLF: I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not sure I believe they have the effect of law, but obviously as in all these things, there are 13 million Pennsylvanians and there are hundreds of thousands of businesses in Pennsylvania.  The point of all this is that people have to feel confident. About going to work, about purchasing something. About going to school.  And that confidence comes not from law or some principle, but from keeping people safe.  From defeating this virus.
 
In relation to the budget, Democratic members have expressed concerns with a $300 million shortfall in gaming revenues for property tax relief.  Has your Administration looked into other ways of backfilling that shortfall with other funds?  WOLF: We have, and we think we have a solution. We have a solution there should be no increase in property taxes and we do have a way to fill that shortfall if and when it arises.
 
As counties move to green what is being done to protect vulnerable seniors who work part time in retail, to supplement their social security. Do you have recommendations for those who fear returning to work and who also fear losing their jobs?   WOLF: In the new normal, we’ll all have to live differently.  We will have to know our employer takes care of you. If you are the business owner, you ought to make sure anyone entering your store wears a mask.  Especially the most vulnerable  should take every action to protect their health as we get to this new normal.
 
Is wearing a mask  in retail locations just a good suggestion, or a law?  WOLF: It’s not a law.  Any business owner has the absolute right to determine what the customer should be wearing when they come into the store, including wearing a mask. As a business owner myself, I would have done anything I could to keep my workers and keep the customers safe.  And if I could do something to ensure that, I would do that.
 
Wolf Administration publishes full reopening and recovery plan
On Wednesday, the Wolf Administration posted a three phase plan for reopening and recovery of the Commonwealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The plan includes guidance for relief, reopening, and recovery from the damage this virus has caused across Pennsylvania.
 
Wolf said, “Together we can build a safe, prosperous future for Pennsylvania. Over the coming weeks and months, the Wolf Administration will collaborate with the legislature, stakeholders, and Pennsylvanians to build on the governor’s ideas for recovery so that we can emerge from this pandemic stronger.”
 
The plan is available online here.
 
State Representative confirms testing positive for COVID-19, Democrats outraged at failure to notify
At least two Pennsylvania lawmakers say they’ve been in self-quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.  In a statement Wednesday, Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, confirmed he has tested positive for the disease.  He is the first lawmaker to be tested positive for the coronavirus.
 
Another GOP lawmaker, Rep. Russ Diamond, of Lebanon County, told the Capital-Star he was also in self-quarantine due to potential exposure to a positive case at the Capitol.  Two other GOP Representatives are said to also be self-quarantining.
 
The revelations come as the House prepared to pass important components of a temporary state budget during the pandemic. The news infuriated House Democrats, who discovered the news hours before Lewis’ statement.
 
Lewis said he had mild flu symptoms, was tested on May 18, and received a positive result on May 20. He was last in the Capitol on May 14.  Lewis said he informed House Republican human resources, and began self-quarantine on May 20.
 
In an email, House Republican spokesperson Mike Straub said that the chamber followed CDC guidelines, and only notified individuals who were within six feet of Lewis up to 48 hours before the onset of symptoms. “Absolutely anyone, from anywhere in the Capitol, who may have been exposed within those guidelines, was notified,” Straub said.
 
That did not include any Democrats, who first learned of the news Wednesday through media reports, House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, said in a statement.
 
“While we are pleased to learn that this House member seems to have recovered, it is simply unacceptable that some House Republicans knew about this for more than a week and sat on that knowledge,” he said.
 
Dermody also pointed to lawmakers who haven’t worn masks in the Capitol, which he said, “shows a fundamental lack of respect for fellow lawmakers, our staff and our families back home.”
 
Wednesday evening, Democrats had heightened the attacks on GOP leadership, and various members have called for Speaker Turzai’s resignation for failing to notify the members, or for an investigation by the State Attorney General to determine whether laws had been brok
en by withholding the information.
 
Statement by Governor Wolf thanking businesses
Governor Tom Wolf today praised Pennsylvania businesses that have pivoted to produce critical products during the COVID-19 public health crisis, which undoubtedly contributed to the commonwealth’s efforts to protect public health and safety.
 
“Over the past few weeks, I’ve emphasized that every Pennsylvanian has a part to play in getting us through this crisis with the best outcomes for our health and our economy. We’re already seeing some of the results of these efforts — new case rates are declining and testing and contact tracing efforts are increasing,” Gov. Wolf said. “We accomplished these feats through the hard work and sacrifice of everyone, from individual Pennsylvanians who, every day, take part in social distancing and hygiene efforts to curb the spread of this virus, as well as the numerous businesses that have made use of their facilities to manufacture much-needed supplies.”
 
The governor highlighted several of the numerous Pennsylvania-based businesses that stepped up to assist first responders, health care systems, and life-sustaining businesses by shifting production to much needed medical equipment, products used for personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitization.
 
Recognizing the needs of both our frontline workers and the businesses expressing a desire to help, DCED and the departments of Health, General Services, and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency joined forces to facilitate the connections needed to bolster the critical personal protective equipment supply chain and put Pennsylvanians back to work.
 
The Wolf Administration’s announcement of the development of the Critical Medical Supply Portal, where Pennsylvania businesses can submit information to support the creation of critically-needed medical supplies, and the Manufacturing Call to Action Portal, where businesses’ critical supply chain capabilities, needs, workforce gaps, and innovation opportunities can be assessed for collaborative production efforts, were made in direct response to Pennsylvania’s business communities stepping up to the plate during this difficult time.
 
The portals are linking manufacturers directly with a dedicated team of case managers who can thoroughly evaluate their needs and seamlessly connect them with the appropriate resources or partner organizations who can provide additional support.