May 29 (morning) Pennsylvania COVID-19 Update

BELOW:

  • Wolf, Levine sign orders moving eight counties to yellow phase
  • Daily report from DoH re COVID-19 cases
  • DHS Secretary holds briefing on medical, insurance programs available
  • Administration outlines PPE, supplies, equipment assistance to date
  • FAQs posted for recreational activities during reopening
  • House passes resolution to end Governor’s orders immediately. Goes to Senate
  • Five-month $25.8 billion “transition budget“ passes Senate, in Governor’s hands

 
Wolf, Levine sign orders moving eight counties to yellow phase on Friday May 29
Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed amended yellow phase orders to include eight counties moving to the yellow phase at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, May 29. The counties include Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Schuylkill.
 
The eight counties join 49 counties that previously moved into the yellow phase.
 
The Governor’s amended order can be found here.  The Secretary of Health’s amended order can be found here.
 
THURSDAY’S REPORT FROM DoH
The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Wednesday confirmed that, as of 12:00 a.m., May 28, that there are 625 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 70,042. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania have cases of COVID-19.
 
There are 5,373 total deaths attributed to COVID-19, an increase of 108 new deaths. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here
 
There are 595 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 357,804 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;
  • 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.
 
In nursing and personal care homes, there are 15,158 resident cases of COVID-19, and 2,563 cases among employees, for a total of 17,721 at 600 distinct facilities in 44 counties. Out of our total deaths, 3,501 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. A county breakdown can be found here.
 
Approximately 5,279 of our 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.
 
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 18 to green on May 29. All remaining red counties are expected to move to yellow by June 5.
 
Statewide – The Wolf Administration has since noon, May 27:
 

 
For the latest information for individuals, families, businesses and schools, visit “Responding to COVID-19” on pa.gov.
 
The Governor and Dr. Levine did not hold a press briefing on Thursday.
 
DHS Secretary Teresa Miller held a briefing on public assistance programs available in COVID-19 emergency
Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today reminded Pennsylvanians that public assistance programs remain available to families throughout the COVID-19 public-health emergency.
 
Programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other services established specifically in response to COVID-19 like the Emergency Assistance Program (EAP), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Recovery Crisis Program, and the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) programs. Each of these programs can help Pennsylvanians who have lost income or employment meet basic needs until they are able to start work again.
 
“I want to ensure Pennsylvanians that DHS is here to support them – nobody should go without food, health care, or other services. These safety-net programs exist to help all of us in the best of times, and they are critical in the worst of times. We cannot always plan for an injury or accident, a divorce, or a pandemic, but DHS’s programs exist to help people get through these tough times. These services are available now and they will remain available in the months ahead.”
 
Health Care
Pennsylvanians who have lost health coverage or are currently uninsured and need coverage for themselves or their children may qualify for coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Medicaid and CHIP provide coverage for routine and emergency health services, tests and screenings, and prescriptions, and COVID-19 testing and treatment are covered by both Medicaid and CHIP. Medicaid and CHIP enroll individuals throughout the year and do not have a limited or special enrollment time, so people needing health coverage can apply for these programs at any time. There are income limits for Medicaid, but all children qualify for coverage through CHIP.
 
Food Security
SNAP helps people expand purchasing power by providing money each month to spend on groceries, helping households have resources to purchase enough food to avoid going hungry. Inadequate food and chronic nutrient deficiencies have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. Children who have enough to eat go on to have higher graduation rates, increased adult earnings, and improved health outcomes in their adult life. Older adults who are enrolled in SNAP are healthier, hospitalized less and are less likely to go to a nursing home. As the nation faces the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential needs like food is more important than ever to help keep people healthy and mitigate co-occurring health risks.
 
Pennsylvania was also approved to offer a temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), which extends benefits to families with children who receive free or reduced-price school meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and is designed to bridge the gap left by schools closing and help families who may have strained resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Other Temporary Programs in Response to COVID-19 
DHS also established the Emergency Assistance Program (EAP)Opens In A New Window to help low-income families who lost wages experiencing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualifying families will be issued a one-time grant equal to two months of TANF benefits to assist them in meeting basic needs. The emergency assistance application is available online at www.compass.state.pa.usOpens In A New Window, and applications will be accepted through June 12 or until all funds are expended.
 
Pennsylvanians can apply online for these programs at any time at www.compass.state.pa.usOpens In A New Window or, if preferred, paper documentation can be mailed to their local County Assistance Office (CAO)Opens In A New Window or left in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. While CAOs remain closed, work processing applications, determining eligibility, and issuing benefits continues. Clients should use COMPASS or the MyCOMPASS PA mobile app to submit necessary updates to their case files while CAOs are closed.
 
Miller was available for questions from the news media, but the only question asked was how someone without internet service could apply for these programs.  Miller said that paper applications can be processed at all county assistance offices.
 
Governor announced testing supply shipments, to help test patients
Governor Wolf announced today that additional shipments of testing supplies have been sent to hospitals across Pennsylvania this week. Since March 9, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has distributed supplies to more than 60 hospitals, health care facilities, and county and municipal health departments to help test more than 67,000 patients.
 
“We know we need to ramp up testing capabilities as a means to further mitigate COVID-19,” Gov. Wolf said. “These supplies are critical to that goal. We will continue to distribute these supplies as quickly and efficiently as they become available.”
 
Testing supplies include nasopharyngeal swabs and viral transport media tubes depending on what is requested by facilities. The department sent testing supplies to the following types of entities:
 

  • 42,000 to county and municipal health departments
  • 9,640 to laboratories, testing teams, state agencies and medical practices
  • 8,542 to hospital and health systems
  • 7,070 to long-term care facilities

 
“Pennsylvania recognizes that increased testing capacity is a critical aspect to successfully reopening the state; especially as certain regions move from aggressive mitigation to containment strategies,” Dr. Levine said. “Even though testing capacity has increased significantly, we will continue to provide necessary testing supplies to our partners across the state so even more Pennsylvanians can be tested and treated for COVID-19.”
 
FAQs posted for recreational activities during reopening
The Governor has also announced new guidelines for recreational activities in PA counties, including:
 

  • The types of summer programs for children and youth permitted to operate during Gov. Wolf’s phased-in reopening plan.
  • Additional requirements for summer programs operating in counties in yellow and green phases beyond what is required by the CDC guidance for youth programs and camps.
  • The summer programs operating in counties in yellow and green phases that are permitted to operate fully indoor, fully outdoor, or a combination of indoor and outdoor.
  • Group sizes for summer programs that are permitted to operate in counties in the yellow phase.
  • Requirements on staff and youth face-coverings in child care and summer programs permitted to operate in yellow phase counties.
  • Enrollment restrictions on summer programs in counties in yellow or green phase.
  • Status of public playgrounds during the phased reopening.
  • Status of organized team sports during the phased reopening.
  • Operation of public bathing places and community pools during the phased reopening.
  • Operation of camping, campgrounds and group camping separate from organized summer camps for youth.
  • Status of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources facilities during the various phases of reopening.

 
State House passes Resolution to end Governor’s orders by a 117-85 vote
After a day of recriminations, charges, countercharges and much media play, the State House of Representatives tonight passed a Concurrent Resolution (HR 836) that would, if passed by the State Senate, require an end to the Governor’s emergency orders re COVID-19. The vote was preceded by two hours of often interrupted accusations, name-calling, hyperbole, personal attacks, insults, calls for resignations, questions about loss of federal funding, and questions about the safety of the House, in the wake of yesterday’s announcement that a Republican member had been found positive and that staff and members had not been told till the media leaked the information. 
 
In the end, the Resolution, which was amended on the floor to limit its scope, passed with eight Democrats joining all Republicans.  The eight Democrats are all from southwest Pennsylvania, which has been hit particularly hard by the governor’s orders despite never seeing significant numbers of cases of the virus.
 
The Joint Resolution now goes to the Senate for consideration.  The House is adjourned until June 8.
 
Five month budget in the Governor’s hands
Also today, the State Senate passed a $25.8 billion five-month transitional budget that will fund the state at last year’s levels through November 2020.  The House had passed the budget earlier this week, and the bill is now in the Governor’s hands.  Governor Wolf has suggested that he would sign it, given the many questions that remain about revenues, costs, and federal assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s responses and results of business reopenings.
 
The main spending bill includes no new taxes and has full-year money for public schools and state-supported universities. The bill only funds the rest of the state’s operating budget through November 30.
 
Also Thursday, legislation to distribute $2.6 billion in emergency federal coronavirus aid sent to Pennsylvania state government was approved in House and Senate committees in preparation for an upcoming vote.
 
The vote on the budget’s final passage was 44-6 with 15 Democrats joining the Republicans and one Independent in voting for the bill.  The six Democrats voting against the budget proposal were all from extreme southeastern Pennsylvania.