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.
Pennsylvania Department of Health officials Sunday announced another 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), including the first confirmed case in Lehigh County.
Prior to Sunday, there was one confirmed case in Northampton County; a patient who is reportedly hospitalized at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus hospital in Bethlehem Township.
Northampton County’s case total remained unchanged at one as of Sunday.
Four new cases were confirmed in Montgomery County, which with a total of 24 cases remains at the epicenter of the outbreak in Pennsylvania.
Other coronavirus 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 are 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.
On Friday, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf ordered all K-12 schools closed for at least two weeks beginning Monday to help slow the spread of the virus, whose outbreak has caused death and disruptions globally and more recently throughout the United States.
As of Sunday, the U.S. had more than 3,200 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 60 people had died from the illness caused by the virus. The total number of confirmed American cases increased by more than 500 over the weekend.
In response to growing concerns over the coronavirus’s spread, in Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf has placed four southeastern counties in a COVID-19 mitigation zone where it is recommended that all non-essential businesses close and other restrictions are in place for 14 days. Large public gatherings are also being discouraged.
The following coronavirus-related regulations took effect in Montgomery County on Friday, in Delaware County on Saturday, and in Bucks and Chester counties on Sunday:
- A no visitor policy in in place for correctional facilities and nursing homes and will be evaluated for other facilities.
- Freedom of travel remains, but the governor has asked all people to refrain from non-essential travel.
- All child care centers licensed by the Commonwealth will be closed beginning Monday, March 16.
- Adult daycare centers will be closed beginning Monday, March 16.
- Essential services will be available including police, fire and emergency medical services, and essential services for vulnerable populations.
- Supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations will remain open.
- State liquor stores will be closed as of Tuesday.
In hard-hit Montgomery County, even retail landmarks such as the King of Prussia Mall have closed due to the coronavirus. In the mall’s case, the decision to shut its doors apparently came following public pressure on social media to adhere to public safety guidelines that call for limiting large gatherings.
“We will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds to determine if and when we will (impose the mitigation efforts in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties) in other counties in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said Saturday. “Individuals, businesses and communities across Pennsylvania are already stepping up to the challenge. If we succeed in slowing the spread of COVID-19, it will be because we all do our part.”
In the Saucon Valley area many nursing homes, businesses, organizations and government agencies are responding and doing their part to help stop the coronavirus’s spread by encouraging social distancing, with some stores limiting hours, restaurants adding/encouraging customers to purchase food for delivery or curbside pickup and buildings like Hellertown Borough Hall closing to the public until further notice.
The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley remained open as of Sunday, although some stores there are reducing their hours and the AMC movie theater has implemented new maximum seating requirements to help reduce the number of people in its auditoriums.
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The Promenade Shops has also temporarily postponed all upcoming events.
Meanwhile, fear over the spread of COVID-19 has prompted continued “panic buying” in many area supermarkets, where stock of items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer remains low. Although some stores have sought to limit quantities of certain items–and even reduced their hours to give employees an opportunity to restock shelves overnight–shoppers have reported sporadic difficulty finding everything from bread to kitty litter.
At the PA wine & spirits shop in the Creekside Marketplace shopping center in Lower Saucon Township Saturday evening it was essentially business as usual, although several customers commented that the frenzied buying and lines were reminiscent of what might more typically be seen in the store preceding a snowstorm.
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.
In addition, it’s recommended that Pennsylvanians review the PA Emergency Preparedness Guide.