COVID-19 Update, April 24: New case numbers spike in state, Chester County

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

The Chester County Health Department map of case loads for COVID-19 in the county as of April 24.

Hopes of an early end to the COVID-19 crisis may be dimming as Thursday saw spikes in new cases both statewide and in Chester County.

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported Friday that 1,599 new cases of the virus were confirmed via testing on Thursday, as case numbers climbed again for their third straight day after a number of days in decline. DOH reports 1,492 confirmed deaths — it has had multiple reporting standards for COVID-19 fatalities this week, making it almost impossible to track the daily numbers.

“As we see the number of new COVID-19 cases continuously change 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.”

Chester County’s numbers show a new spike, up 102, after new case numbers had dropped into the 20s a number of days in a row. Both DOH and County Health now agree that 77 have died from the virus in the county, although published reports citing numbers from the Chester County Coroner suggest the death toll is now above 100.

The state continues to work toward opening up, with construction projects allowed to resume work on May 1 — Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay at home order runs through May 8 currently. Guidelines for that construction work were issued Friday.

“My administration has taken measured, aggressive steps to protect public health and safety, including strictly limiting the types of businesses and projects that may continue to operate during this unprecedented time,” Wolf said in a statement. “Thankfully, these actions are working, and we are flattening the curve. As we start to take steps to reopen the state, we recognize that the construction industry is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy and may operate safely with stringent guidance in place that will protect employees and the public.”

The guidance, developed from guidance created by the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania, provides universal protocols for all construction activity, as well as specific additional guidance for residential, commercial and public construction projects.

All business and employees in the construction industry must adhere to the Secretary of Health’s order providing for business safety measures, which requires that every person present at a work site wear masks/face coverings unless they are unable for medical or safety reasons and requires that businesses establish protocols upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.

also on Friday, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin announced new funding assistance for transportation and housing activities to address the COVID-19 pandemic under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“COVID-19 has had a major impact on communities across Pennsylvania, and this funding will serve as a critical resource for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents,” said Sec. Davin. “By working together with the federal government, we can safeguard the health and wellbeing of individuals across the commonwealth.”

On March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law the CARES Act to provide immediate and direct relief to individuals struggling as a result of the COVID-19 global health pandemic. Division B of the Act, Title XII, includes allocations of $48.5 billion in funding assistance for transportation and housing activities to address the pandemic.

Also, the state Liquor Control Board announced Friday that it would vastly expand its curbside pickup program at state stores, starting Monday, adding 389 more locations to 176 that started service last Monday.

“Beginning Monday, we’ll have 565 Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores across Pennsylvania accepting orders by phone for curbside pickup,” said PLCB Chairman Tim Holden. “We acknowledge that Pennsylvanians are frustrated with busy signals and want broader access to wine and spirits, so after learning from our experiences this past week, we’ve made improvements to process orders faster, expand the hours we take orders by phone, and be more flexible in scheduling pickups, even the same day, if pickup appointments are available.”

The expanded list of stores offering curbside service is available online. Most stores will support curbside service Monday through Saturday – taking a limited number of orders on a first-call, first-served basis beginning at 9:00 AM each day and scheduling pickup appointments between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM those days – but some stores will operate on more limited days and hours. 

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