Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the individual who died in Northampton County from the novel coronavirus was not a county resident. Reports from the state were ambiguous, however Lehigh Valley Live has identified him as a 55-year-old horse racing trainer from New Jersey named Carmine Fusco. According to the story, Fusco is the second person in his family to die from the disease.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health and the governor’s office announced Wednesday that a person in Northampton County who was being treated for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has died. The death is the first attributed to the virus in the state.
“For the sake of the family’s privacy we will not be providing any additional information on the individual at this time,” Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf said in a 5:30 p.m. news conference which was streamed live from his home in York County. “I bring you this news because it demonstrates the severity of COVID-19.”
Wolf said the news that someone in the state had died from the virus–which has caused a global pandemic and killed more than 100 Americans–left him with “a heavy heart.”
Lehigh Valley Live cited the county coroner in reporting that the individual–who had been hospitalized at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus in Bethlehem Township since last week–died at St. Luke’s Hospital-Bethlehem, which is in Fountain Hill, Lehigh County.
To date no other cases of the virus have been reported in Northampton County.
There has been one confirmed case of the coronavirus in Lehigh County–in the city of Bethlehem–and statewide there are now more than 130 cases, all involving individuals who are either in isolation at home or being treated in hospitals.
“The spread of COVID-19 across our Commonwealth is increasing at an exponential pace,” Wolf said, acknowledging that the disease has “characteristics which make it difficult to control.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is now releasing an update on the number of cases once per day, due to an escalation in the number of reported cases of the virus, which is spread from person to person and can survive on surfaces for periods of time.
“I ask all Pennsylvanians to stay home,” Wolf urged in his news conference. “We need to stay home if we want to save lives.”
“Today’s was just the first death of what we fear will become many,” he added.
Wolf urged all non-essential businesses to close their doors if they have not already done so, as part of a two-week shutdown his office announced Monday that is designed to help limit the virus’s spread.
During the shutdown, supermarkets, pharmacies and other “essential” businesses are permitted to remain open under Wolf’s directive, which he said his office won’t enforce.
Supermarkets like Giant and Fresh Market as well as discount stores such as Dollar General have also reduced their hours of operation and added an hour when seniors only are permitted to shop, to help reduce their risk of exposure to the virus.