UPDATE: The “stay at home” order issued by Gov. Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine has been expanded to include both Lehigh and Northampton counties. Under this order residents are being told not to leave home unless it is to perform tasks essential for life and safety (see below for examples).
The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Wednesday released a rather grim mid-day update on the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state.
In spite of strict measures the governor has implemented to help slow the spread of the disease, the number of cases of coronavirus increased from 851 Tuesday to 1,127 Wednesday, and the number of deaths increased from seven to 11 over the past 24 hours.
The increase in the number of confirmed cases works out to be a 32.4 percent rise in just 24 hours.
The measures Gov. Tom Wolf has imposed include a shutdown of all non-life-sustaining businesses that was ordered late last week and stay-at-home order for Philadelphia and seven other counties: Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, Monroe, Allegheny and Erie.
On Wednesday the order was expanded to include Lehigh and Northampton counties, and Wolf continues to receive requests on Twitter and elsewhere to make the order effective statewide.
In the quarantined counties, residents are only supposed to leave home in order to perform tasks essential to life and safety, such as buying food and medicine or to care for family or pets in another home. Residents are also permitted to spend time outside as long as they maintain social distancing and refrain from gathering in large groups, and the order does not affect the ability of life-sustaining businesses to remain open, including restaurants that are offering curbside pickup, takeout and/or delivery of food.
“Individuals experiencing homelessness are not subject to this order but are strongly urged to find shelter and government agencies are urged to take steps needed to provide shelter for those individuals,” said State Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-18) in a mid-day update about the extension to the Lehigh Valley. “International students, foster youth and any other students who would otherwise experience displacement or homelessness as a result of campus closures are exempt and may remain in campus housing.”
“At this time, law enforcement will be focused on ensuring that residents are aware of the order and informing the public of social distancing practices rather than enforcement,” Boscola added.
Note: See below for more information about the stay-at-home order and who is affected by it.
In the Lehigh Valley, both Northampton and Lehigh counties saw exponential increases in their coronavirus caseloads overnight.
Lehigh County now has 38 confirmed cases, up from 27 confirmed cases on Tuesday.
Similarly, Northampton County now has 44 confirmed cases, up from 33 cases on Tuesday.
There have been three deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Northampton County and none in Lehigh County to date.
The greatest number of cases continues to be in the southeastern part of the state, where Philadelphia has reported more than 250 cases of coronavirus and Montgomery County has reported 172 cases.
Most businesses have reportedly complied with Wolf’s order that all non-life-sustaining private enterprises close until further notice.
The Pennsylvania State Police assisted by state agents from other departments–including the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board–and local authorities are enforcing the shutdown order and have so far only issued warnings to businesses that have not complied with it.
To report a noncompliant business, contact your local law enforcement agency’s non-emergency number or the nearest Pennsylvania State Police station. Do not call 911 or the Department of Community and Economic Development to file reports.
All K-12 schools in the state are to remain closed through at least April 6, per executive order, which is why most students are now being educated remotely.
For more information and updates on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Pennsylvania, follow Wolf on Twitter at @GovernorTomWolf.
Note: The following information about coronavirus is from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. For more information as well as news and updates follow the department on Twitter. Health and safety officials continue to recommend regular handwashing for at least 20 seconds as the best way to help 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.
Note: The following information about the stay-at-home order was shared by State Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-18), whose district includes parts of Northampton County, which along with Lehigh County is now under the order.
Individuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the following allowable individual activities and allowable essential travel:
- Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home
- Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves, for their family or household members, or as part of volunteer efforts, or to deliver those services or supplies to others to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences
- Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking or running if they maintain social distancing
- To perform work providing essential products and services at a life-sustaining business
- To care for a family member or pet in another household
- Any travel related to the provision of or access to the above-mentioned individual activities or life-sustaining business activities
- Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons
- Travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services
- Travel to return to a place of residence from an outside jurisdiction
- Travel required by law enforcement or court order.
- Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the commonwealth
The following operations are exempt:
- Life-sustaining business activities
- Health care or medical services providers
- Access to life-sustaining services for low-income residents, including food banks
- Access to child care services for employees of life-sustaining businesses that remain open as follows: child care facilities operating under the Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning waiver process; group and family child care operating in a residence; and part-day school age programs operating under an exemption from the March 19, 2020 business closure Orders.
- News media
- Law enforcement
- The federal government
- Religious institutions