Gov. Wolf announces statewide social distancing plan

  • Lisa Wardle
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Editor’s note: This story was updated with details from the governor’s 2 p.m. press conference.

(Harrisburg) — Gov. Tom Wolf has announced that beginning Friday, the state will begin social distancing measures in response to the spread of the coronavirus. This plan is slated to last for 14 days, but will be continually evaluated.

“We’ve watched as other states, we’ve watched as other countries have struggled to control this coronavirus,” Gov. Wolf said, “and we’ve learned a lot from their efforts.”

The Wolf administration is encouraging the suspension of all large gatherings, events and conferences of 250 or more people. Officials are also discouraging all residents from participating in smaller-scale recreational activities, such as going to movie theaters and gyms, and encouraging religious leaders to exercise discretion to limit the spread.

As of this afternoon, 22 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The majority of those cases (13) are in Montgomery County. Two of the cases so far have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The others are presumed positive while awaiting confirmation by the CDC.

Because of the concentration in Montgomery County, the governor is ordering additional measures there.

These measures are specific to Montgomery County:

  • A no-visitor policy will be implemented for correctional facilities, nursing homes, and others to be evaluated.
  • Schools in Montgomery County will be closed starting tomorrow, as will child care centers licensed by the Commonwealth.
  • Adult day care centers will be closed.
  • Freedom of travel will remain, but the Governor and the Commonwealth ask all people to refrain from non-essential travel.
  • Essential services will be available: police, fire, and emergency medical services, essential services for vulnerable populations.
  • Supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations will remain open. The Governor and the Commonwealth recommends that non-essential retail facilities close.
  • AMTRAK will begin operating a reduced schedule and the Ardmore stop will close to AMTRAK trains for two weeks, beginning tomorrow. The Wolf Administration is also working directly with SEPTA to evaluate potential impacts and will continue to provide service updates as things evolve.

“By closing these facilities, we can control the spread of the disease, that’s the hope,” Wolf said. “And we can redirect our public safety and health officials to where they’re needed the most.”

The governor and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine are holding a press conference now. Watch live:

 

The Department of Health on Wednesday released additional details about testing after calls for more transparency, including the number of tests performed and their status.

COVID-19 testing in Pennsylvania
Data as of 2 p.m. March 12

  • People tested: 219
  • Pending results: 81
  • Negative: 116
  • Presumptive positive: 20
  • Confirmed positive: 2

A “pending” status reflects both samples on the way to the lab for testing and those that are in the process of being analyzed. The coronavirus test is not as simple as some diagnostic tools, like rapid strep or pregnancy tests, and it takes lab technicians four to six hours to analyze a sample.

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