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Your afternoon coronavirus update for Pa.: 1,200 new virus cases as state sets deadline for shutdown waivers

There are 751 cases and nine deaths in 16 central Pennsylvania counties.

  • Michael Rubinkam/Associated Press
A sign inside the door of the Cocoa Diner in Hummelstown gives directions for take-out orders, during the coronavirus pandemic. April 1, 2020.

 Tim Lambert / WITF

A sign inside the door of the Cocoa Diner in Hummelstown gives directions for take-out orders, during the coronavirus pandemic. April 1, 2020.

With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is to equip you with the information you need. Rather than chase every update, we’ll try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See all of our stories here.

What you should know
» Coronavirus facts & FAQ
» Day-by-day look at coronavirus disease cases in Pa.
» It’s time to get serious about social distancing. Here’s how.


Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Cameron County has not recorded a death related to the coronavirus. The state health department released incorrect information earlier Thursday.

(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania businesses are running out of time if they want an exemption from Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown order as state health officials on Thursday reported more than 1,200 new cases of COVID-19.

Wolf ordered all “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shutter their physical locations until further notice to help slow the spread of the coronavirus but established a waiver process for companies that believe they should be exempt.

The Wolf administration announced a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday for waiver applications, prompting an outcry from small-business advocates who said the deadline was premature and would create additional hardship for struggling employers.

“There has been a huge waiting list for waivers, and it is important not to prohibit a necessary business from playing a role in the emergency,” said Gordon Denlinger, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “We are asking Gov. Wolf to reconsider the shutdown of the waiver program.”

The state received more than 34,000 waiver requests through Wednesday. The Department of Community and Economic Development has approved more than 5,600 requests and denied at least 8,600. More than 8,100 requests were filed by businesses that did not need them to continue to operate, agency spokeswoman Casey Smith said Thursday.

Businesses that remain open to the public include grocery stores, pharmacies, hotels and motels, beer distributors, laundromats, and gas stations. Restaurants are open only for take-out orders. The open list also includes farms, mines, food production and some manufacturing.

Car dealers, clothing stores and other retailers, salons, and entertainment venues are among those on the shuttered list.

Through Wednesday, Pennsylvania State Police issued 136 warnings to businesses violating the shutdown order. No business has been cited.

In other coronavirus developments Thursday:


The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 1,211 additional people tested positive for the new virus, bringing the total number to over 7,000. There were 16 new deaths for a statewide toll of 90.

There are 751 cases and nine deaths in central Pennsylvania counties: Adams (18), Berks (168, including 1 death), Columbia (11), Cumberland (41, including 1 death), Dauphin (67, including 1 death), Franklin (23), Juniata (2), Lancaster (203, including 4 deaths), Lebanon (45), Mifflin (1), Northumberland (8), Perry (3), Schuylkill (54), Snyder (3, including 1 death), Union (2) and York (102, including 1 death)

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Online liquor store overwhelmed

As expected, demand far exceeded the capacity of Pennsylvania’s system of state-owned liquor stores to process online orders as sales resumed Wednesday.

Brick-and-mortar liquor stores are closed because of the virus pandemic, but nearly 278,000 people tried to place orders on the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board website during the first day of digital sales. By way of comparison, the site attracted 32,300 users when the liquor agency recently released several sought-after but limited-availability whiskeys.

“As we expected, consumer interest and site traffic far exceeded our ability to accept orders,” a spokeswoman said Thursday.

For now, the state is limiting website access to prevent the system from crashing, giving only a limited number of randomly selected consumers access to shop. All others get a screen indicating the online store is closed.

Gun permit extension

Andrea Schry (right) fills out the buyer’s part of legal forms to buy a handgun as shop worker Missy Morosky fills out the vendor’s parts after Dukes Sport Shop in New Castle, Pa., reopened on Wednesday.

Pennsylvania residents will be allowed to carry guns on expired permits.

Wolf granted an extension for holders of concealed carry permits. State police said that permits that expired on March 19 or later have been extended to May 30. The extension was granted because some county courthouses are closed due to the pandemic.

Walmart warehouse closed

Walmart has temporarily closed a Pennsylvania fulfillment center after workers tested positive for the virus.

The retailer said it closed the center in Bethlehem on Wednesday night so it can be cleaned and sanitized. The center, which processes online orders and employs nearly 1,800, will be closed until Monday, said Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg.

When workers return, Walmart will provide gloves and masks and take employees’ temperatures before they begin their shifts, part of a new policy announced by the retail giant for all its stores and warehouses, according to Lundberg.

Workers have expressed grave concern about the conditions in Bethlehem, saying that they have been forced to operate in tight quarters and that the facility wasn’t being cleaned properly.

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