“Staying at home doesn’t mean making a daily stop at the grocery store because you need to get out of the house. Staying at home means you must stay at home.”
– The unelected Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine explaining the Statewide Stay-at-Home Order Beginning at 8 PM Tonight (April 1, 2020) to Pennsylvanians
Apr 16, 2020 – The Department of Health is reporting that COVID-19 mitigation efforts have flattened the curve in the Commonwealth.
PHILADELPHIA – Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday placed all of Pennsylvania under an order to stay at home, dramatically expanding the geographic footprint of the quarantine as state officials combat the coronavirus pandemic.
In one stroke, Wolf added 34 counties to his stay-home edict, meaning that residents of all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties must now stay home as much as possible to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The expanded order took effect at 8 p.m. Wednesday and will last through at least April 30.
Residents may leave their homes for a number of reasons. Exceptions include working at a business that’s still open, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, visiting a doctor, caring for a relative, or heading outside to exercise.
Police will continue to focus on informing residents of the order rather than on enforcement, according to the governor’s office.
Officials said the stay-at-home order won’t be relaxed until there is a consistent decline in the number of new cases that shows the measures are slowing the spread of the virus.
Separately, schools and nonessential businesses are closed until further notice.
FULL COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS
With coronavirus infections continuing to rise dramatically in the state, with nearly 1,000 new confirmed cases reported Tuesday, Wolf called a statewide quarantine “the most prudent option.”
“We appreciate the shared sacrifice of all 12.8 million Pennsylvanians; we are in this together,” Wolf said in a statement.
The Department of Health is reporting that COVID-19 mitigation efforts have flattened the curve in the Commonwealth, though officials are warning that now is not the time to ease up on those strategies.
Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine noted during the daily coronavirus update on Thursday that the wealth of data accrued by the Department of Health indicates positive results for Pennsylvanians in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our trends show that Pennsylvanians’ sacrifice to stay at home is working,” Levine said. “We have been able to flatten that curve, and to date, our health care system is staying stable, and we have not had a wave of cases that have overwhelmed our health care system.”
However, flattening the curve does not mean the end of the pandemic in Pennsylvania, as the latest statistics showed.
Across the Commonwealth, 1,245 new cases of COVID-19 and 60 deaths due to the virus were noted, bringing the totals to 27,735 patients and 707 fatalities as of Thursday.
One death was reported in Monroe County, along with two in Lackawanna, three in Lehigh, and one in Luzerne.
As of Thursday, 898 cases and 29 deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported in Monroe County, along with 113 cases and six deaths in Carbon, 559 cases and 28 deaths in Lackawanna, 1,999 cases and 28 deaths in Lehigh, 1,611 cases and 28 deaths in Luzerne, 1,296 cases and 25 deaths in Northampton, 276 cases and seven deaths in Pike, and 77 cases and two deaths in Wayne.
When asked whether a testing shortage could be a contributing factor to the flattening of the curve, Levine said that the Department of Health is evaluating numerous measures in relation to the matter – including the total number of positive cases, the percent of positive cases in each area, and emergency department visits with specific diagnoses of coronavirus and influenza-like illnesses – all of which are dropping.
“And so we’re very confident we have flattened the curve, but it is correct that we need to be able to expand testing, we’re having those discussions vigorously over this week, and we’re going to work to expand testing as far as we can,” Levine said.
In order to keep the momentum going, Levine said it was necessary to continue mitigation efforts – social distancing, frequent hand washing, etc. – or else the infection could continue to spread amongst Pennsylvanians.
Just yesterday, Governor Tom Wolf ordered that all customers and employees at life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania will be required to wear masks as of Sunday evening.
“The idea is to try to keep customers and employees safe, and employers and business owners have actually every incentive to make sure that their employees and their customers are safe, or I’m afraid they’re not going to have people show up to work, and they’re not going to have people come in and buy their stuff,” Wolf said on Thursday.
In light of the announcement that thousands of citizens led by ReOpen PA, End The Lockdown PA and Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine plan to convene at the state capitol on Monday to protest against “lockdown restrictions continuing beyond 5/1,” Levine advised that failing to adhere to mitigation efforts like social distancing could prove problematic.
“We understand that the majority of cases have been in the southeast and northeast, and we’re very pleased that the rest of the state has been less affected by COVID-19, but now is not the time today to relax social distancing, and that’s the recommendation I would make to anyone planning to come and protest,” Levine said.
Wolf said on Thursday that he was previously unaware of the planned protest, and expressed concern for the potential spread of the virus in such a situation.
In relation to models from institutions like the University of Washington, which called for Pennsylvania to reach peak hospitalization rates as of Thursday, Levine remarked that while they serve as useful projections, they may not always be spot-on. Regardless, staying home and practicing social distancing are still crucial to continuing the path to a drop in COVID-19 cases.
“But if you also compare where we are compared to FEMA models from three weeks ago or more, we have certainly bent that curve in terms of the number of patients we have, the number of hospitalizations we have, and the death rate,” Levine said. “So, I think that the mitigation efforts have been successful, but right now, we need to continue them.”