COVID-19 Update: Case numbers drop; Wolf relaxes some lockdown rules

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

The worst may — may — be over in Pennsylvania and Chester County’s battle against COVID-19.

New case numbers both statewide and locally appear to have at least plateaued, if not shown signs of slowing, prompting Gov. Tom Wolf to announce Monday the first small moves to relax the general shut down in the state.

The state’s Liquor Control Board began curbside pickup of alcohol Monday at select locations, online car sales will be allowed this week and construction work will be allowed to resume as of May 8 under strict guidelines.

“Over the past six weeks, Pennsylvanians have come together like never before to halt the spread of COVID-19,” said Gov. Wolf in a statement. “It has not been easy, but it has paid off. Today, we are taking small steps toward a degree of normalcy. We are allowing curbside pickup of phone orders at PLCB stores and auto sales will be allowed to take place online. On May 8, construction will resume statewide.

“I want to caution that we will not be resuming operations as they were in February. We’re going to continue to take precautions that limit our physical contact with others, and we will closely monitor this to see if it can be done safely.”

The first signs of loosening in the general lockdown come as the state Department of Health (DOH) revealed a slowing of new cases, down to 948 —the first day since April 2 the state reported less than 1,000 new cases — and 92 deaths statewide. The total cases in the state are now 33,232 with a total 1,204 deaths in the state to date.

“As we start to see the number of new COVID-19 cases decrease across the state that does not mean we can stop practicing social distancing,” Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We must continue to stay home to protect ourselves, our families and our community. If you must go out, please make as few trips as possible and wear a mask to protect not only yourself, but others. We need all Pennsylvanians to continue to heed these efforts to protect our vulnerable Pennsylvanians, our health care workers and frontline responders.”

The new case numbers appear to be slowing in Chester County as well, with 38 new cases reported Sunday. The county Health Department reports 42 deaths — lower than the county coroner’s report last week of at least 52.

The moves on alcohol sales — prompted after an online sales program proved inadequate — the allowance of online car sales and construction work are the first steps toward reopening the state’s economy — which has taken a hit during the shutdown.

The change on liquor sales is expected to reduce the number of Pennsylvanians crossing state borders in search of liquor — an issue that prompted both Ohio and Delaware to take action in recent weeks.

176 locations in the state will start curbside sales.

“Today, 106 Fine Wine & Good Spirits Premium Collection stores and 70 standard stores began accepting orders by phone for curbside pickup,” said PLCB Chairman Tim Holden. “We believe offering curbside pickup service in a controlled, limited manner will allow us to maintain public health best practices while growing our ability to serve customers who want access to wines and spirits.”

The stores offering curbside service are identified in a list published by the PLCB, and these stores will accept calls for curbside pickup orders between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., or until each store reaches the maximum number of orders it can fulfill each day, Monday through Saturday. Each store has its own unique inventory and will guide callers through the products available for purchase before finalizing each order and taking payment by phone.

Curbside pickups will be scheduled between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. within a few days of order placement. At pickup, customers will be required to present identification before the order is delivered.

Wolf is expected to sign Senate Bill 841 later today that approves qualified Pennsylvania notaries public to perform remote online notarizations, which will allow auto dealerships to conducted limited car sales and leasing operations through online sales, as a notary is required to complete the transaction. Auto dealerships may continue to remain open for certain activities, such as repairs to passenger and commercial vehicles and sales of auto parts, but in-person car sales or leases are still considered non-life sustaining and remain prohibited at this time.

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