Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaking to the press. Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine this afternoon provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including one new presumptive positive case in Pike County, bringing the state’s total to 22, and guidance on how to reduce the spread of the virus. Harrisburg, PA – March 12, 2020
Emily is a reporter for WITF who’s been covering voting and elections since July 2019 as part of her former role with statehouse accountability news organization PA Post. She was the senior reporter for statewide public media collaboration Keystone Crossroads. Previously, she covered city hall for PennLive/The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.), was a watchdog and city hall reporter at The Press of Atlantic City and reported for the Northwest Herald. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.
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Four more Pennsylvanians have died from COVID-19 complications, including the first residents of Bucks and Lawrence counties, the second in Lancaster County and third in Monroe County.
Another 643 new positive test results — including the first in Venango and Mifflin counties — were reported Saturday, bringing Pennsylvania’s total number cases to nearly 3,400 in 58 counties, state Health Secretary Rachel Levine said.
Sixty-four of the state’s coronavirus cases – just under 2 percent – are tied to 36 nursing homes primarily located in the state’s densely populated southeast region where cases have been concentrated, Dr. Levine said.
“[T]hat’s less than.01 percent of the state’s nursing home population,” Levine said.
Levine, whose own mother lives in a personal care home, urged Pennsylvanians with loved ones in long-term care facilities to refrain from visiting those who aren’t in end of life situations. Instead, she urged people to stay connected with phone calls or video chat or by sending letters or cards.
Many facilities had already started restricting visitors before state and federal guidelines were issued instructing them to do so a few weeks ago.
“I know this is hard. We are seeing community spread of this virus in most areas of Pennsylvania. And we need to make sure that our loved ones in nursing homes stay safe. And that is why actually I am not able to visit my mother, either,” Levine said. “But I call – twice a day.”
As with the rest of the state’s population, nursing home staff have been told to say home if they have symptoms, she said.
“If they come to work and they’re having symptoms, … they will not be admitted into the nursing home and then … ask[ed] to get evaluated and tested,” Levine said.
DOH officials later declined to specify whether a significant share of cases are tied to certain facilities, nor would they say whether the cases include staff.
“The Disease [Prevention and Control] Act limits information being released to only what is necessary to protect the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians. We will not be releasing information, like occupations, at this time,” they wrote in an email.
The Department of Economic and Community Development is expected to offer more detailed guidance for all Pennsylvania employers on Monday, Levine said.