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Your daily coronavirus update: Curbside pickup at Pa. liquor stores starts Monday

  • The Associated Press
A pedestrian walks past a boarded up Wine and Spirits store in Philadelphia, Friday, March 20, 2020.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

A pedestrian walks past a boarded up Wine and Spirits store in Philadelphia, Friday, March 20, 2020.

A pedestrian walks past a boarded up Wine and Spirits store in Philadelphia, Friday, March 20, 2020.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

A pedestrian walks past a boarded up Wine and Spirits store in Philadelphia, Friday, March 20, 2020.

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» Coronavirus facts & FAQ
» Day-by-day look at coronavirus disease cases in Pa.
» What the governor’s stay-at-home order means

 

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania is starting curbside pickup at liquor stores around the state a month after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered them closed as part of a broader shutdown of businesses deemed nonessential.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced on its website Saturday that stores will begin taking orders by phone on Monday, with each customer limited to no more than six bottles. Curbside pickup will be available at more than 175 of the state’s 600 stores.

The closure of the state-owned liquor stores had been widely unpopular, especially with the state’s online ordering system largely unable to keep up with overwhelming consumer demand. The liquor board, which has a virtual monopoly on retail sales of hard alcohol in Pennsylvania, has been repurposing some of the stores to help fulfill online orders.

Under the curbside pickup program, each store will take orders by phone from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. — or until the store reaches the maximum number of orders it can fill that day — Monday through Saturday.

“We’re optimistic our capacity to fulfill orders through our website and curbside pickup will increase in the coming weeks,” the agency said on its website.

Producers, breweries, wineries and distilleries, and privately owned beer distributorships have been permitted to sell during the business shutdown. Beer and wine is also available at grocery stores and convenience stores.

In other coronavirus-related developments Saturday:

Mass testing site

A drive-through coronavirus testing site opens next week in northeastern Pennsylvania for emergency and health workers and older commonwealth residents with symptoms, state officials announced Saturday.

The state’s health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, said the site at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, was sought because “we continue to see case counts increasing there.”

The site will begin testing Monday for 100 first responders and health care workers from northeastern Pennsylvania who have symptoms of COVID-19. Beginning Tuesday, the site will test as many as 200 northeastern Pennsylvania residents over age 65 with symptoms as well as first responders and health care workers each day.

Registration a day in advance on the health department’s website will be required, but patients won’t need a doctor’s prescription. Results should be available in two to three business days, and patients will receive an email to log on to the registration site and access their results, officials said.

People heading to the site will be required to return home and self-isolate after testing, and they are being urged not to make any stops along the way, such as to a grocery store or pharmacy, Levine said.

“We want people to come to the site and then go back home,” Levine said.

Cases

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said Sunday it is now including “electronic and probable-cause deaths,” which resulted in 276 coronavirus-related deaths being added to the state’s total — by far the largest single-day increase in reported deaths.

But they didn’t all occur since Saturday. The department has been “working to reconcile” the data from different sources, health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.

“This work takes time and so the increase in deaths today reflects the culmination of that effort, which will continue moving forward,” she said in a news release.

The department reported 1,215 new positive tests, bringing the state’s total to 32,284. The rate of the day-to-day increase in positive cases, 3.9 percent, is the lowest Pennsylvania has seen.

In central Pennsylvania, Sunday’s report included 25 newly recorded deaths in Berks County, two in Columbia, 24 in Lancaster and two in York County.

 

Business-to-business directory

State officials in Pennsylvania have announced creation of a business-to-business directory for supplies related to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Community and Economic Development says the business-to-business interchange directory is intended to connect organizations and businesses directly to manufacturers producing products and supplies.

Secretary Dennis Davin said it’s intended to provide commmonwealth residents access to critical supplies “expeditiously without a middleman.”

The directory currently includes manufacturers of N95 masks, fabric and other masks, and surgical masks. Additional supplies and materials will be added to the directory as the department identifies potential manufacturers.

Food bank funding

The Wolf administration said Saturday that food banks across the state will receive almost $16 million to help during the pandemic. The breakdown:

  • $14.9 million comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Program. The money was part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed by Congress in March. Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture will $11.15 million worth of food to 18 food banks, and $3.75 million to cover food banks’ administrative costs.
  • $1 million will go to Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, which describes itself as a “nonprofit provider of food resources and meals to older Pennsylvanians and hungry families,” through an emergency contract between the state’s agriculture department and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

“COVID-19 has caused severe economic stress for many Pennsylvanians, and as a result our food banks have been working in overdrive with unprecedented demand,” Wolf said. “We’re proud of the Pennsylvanians who are sacrificing so much for the greater good. We’ll continue to push hard and advocate on their behalf, because no one should have to go without when they’re doing their part to save lives.”

Unemployment portal

State residents who are self-employed, independent contractors, or gig workers can now apply for unemployment benefits through the state’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance portal.

PUA is the new federal expansion to unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act. Pennsylvanians who meet the requirements — anyone not eligible for regular unemployment compensation — can now apply online. 

The state Department of Labor and Industry anticipates a high volume of applications over the next few days that may slow the system temporarily. The state hopes to start making payments to approved claimants within two to four weeks after initial claims are submitted.

Members of the clergy and other religious organizations are also among those eligible to apply for the assistance program, which provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits.

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