UPDATE: Lehigh Valley Health Network has confirmed that the first positive COVID-19 case in Lehigh County is in an employee at Lehigh Valley Hospital-17th Street in Allentown. “Processes were followed and precautions were taken to help ensure the safety of colleagues and patients,” the hospital said in a Facebook post Sunday.
Bethlehem mayor Bob Donchez confirmed in a news release posted to Facebook Sunday that Lehigh County’s first confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) is in a city resident.
Donchez said the unnamed individual who tested presumptive positive for the virus lives in West Bethlehem, which is in the portion of the city located in Lehigh County.
“The Bethlehem Health Department is conducting an investigation and identifying individuals who were close contacts of that individual,” Donchez said. “All close contacts will be quarantined and monitored for 14 days.”
He added that the city is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health as well as the Lehigh and Northampton County offices of emergency management in identifying those individuals.
The city is encouraging all residents to engage in “community strategies” to help slow the spread of the disease.
Donchez said those strategies include avoiding gyms, movie theaters and shopping malls; telecommuting for work when possible; suspending large gatherings; utilizing telemedicine when available; and engaging in social distancing.
Social distancing can include everything from closing non-essential retail businesses and increasing the amount of distance maintained between individuals in public places to the use of adaptive behaviors such as foregoing handshakes in favor of non-contact forms of greeting like giving someone a thumbs up.
“If you think you have COVID-19 or may have been exposed to someone who does, stay home and contact your health care provider,” Donchez said, adding that “both Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Health Network are providing free screenings, online and by phone.”
There has been one confirmed case of the coronavirus in Northampton County to date; a patient who was last reported to be hospitalized at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus in Bethlehem Township.
Both LVHN and St. Luke’s have announced that they are limiting visitation to their facilities due to the coronavirus.
“St. Lukeʼs has implemented a strict visitation policy at all of its hospitals to protect the health and safety of our patients and the general public during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak,” the hospital said on its website.
No visitors are permitted in St. Lukeʼs hospitals except under the following circumstances:
- Visitation of a patient nearing the end of life
- Parent visitation of a child in a pediatric ICU or neonatal ICU
- One coach or partner per patient in labor and delivery units
- One visitor at a time for patients in an inpatient hospice unit
- One parent/guardian at a time for pediatric patients
- One visitor to accompany patients for hospital discharge
No children under 12 are permitted to visit.
The following regulations are now in effect for all St. Luke’s outpatient appointments:
- One visitor per patient for outpatient appointments
- One visitor per patient for physician office visits
- One visitor for patients undergoing same-day surgeries and procedures
- One visitor per patient in the Emergency Department
“Reasonable accommodations will be made for pediatric visits provided visitors are in good health,” the hospital said. “Sibling visitors allowed by exception must be in good health and are subject to a health screening.”
The visitation restrictions are subject to change.
In addition to the Lehigh County case the state confirmed four new cases Sunday in Montgomery County, which with 24 cases remains at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Pennsylvania.
Other case totals by county in Pennsylvania are as follows as of Sunday:
- Allegheny (3)
- Bucks (4)
- Chester (2)
- Cumberland (5)
- Delaware (7)
- Luzerne (1)
- Monroe (6)
- Montgomery (24)
- Philadelphia (6)
- Pike (1)
- Washington (1)
- Wayne (1)
Most of the 63 confirmed cases to date have been in the easternmost part of the state, although in the past few days cases have been confirmed in the Pittsburgh area as well as in south central Pennsylvania.
According to the state Department of Health, as of Sunday afternoon the state had 446 PUIs (persons under investigation) and 183 cases with pending test results.
The following information about coronavirus is from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. For more information as well as news and updates follow the PA DoH on Twitter.
Health and safety officials continue to recommend regular handwashing with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds as the best means of helping to stop the virus’s spread.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
- Shortness of breath
The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.
How can the coronavirus spread?
Human coronaviruses spread just like the flu or a cold:
- Through the air by coughing or sneezing
- Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it
- Occasionally, fecal contamination
How can I help protect myself?
- Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Do not use your hands!
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Clean surfaces frequently, including countertops, light switches, cell phones, remotes and other frequently touched items.
- If you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better.