Coronavirus cases reach another Pennsylvania county, parades canceled
HARRISBURG – Cases of the new coronavirus crept into a new county in Pennsylvania as Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania and at least a dozen other schools are moving classes online and St. Patrick’s Day parades in Philadelphia, Scranton and Pittsburgh were canceled.
Bucks County, in suburban Philadelphia, confirmed its first two cases late Tuesday. Along with additional cases confirmed Wednesday in Montgomery and Monroe counties, that boosted the statewide total to at least 16 confirmed cases, according to the state Department of Health, which also said dozens of tests were pending.
With universities moving to online instruction, Penn State encouraged its 76,000 students at its main campus and 21 satellite campuses to stay home the next three weeks, while Penn and the University of Pittsburgh want students to go home for the semester. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration also took steps to limit travel and gatherings.
A look at the latest developments in Pennsylvania:
WHAT WE KNOW
All the people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state live in eastern Pennsylvania, authorities say. Most people are believed to have contracted the virus while traveling outside the state or country, but a growing number of cases, including a police officer, are people who got sick from contact inside Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health began sharing more information about testing Wednesday, saying there were 59 tests pending and 100 negative tests, while an out-of-state resident is hospitalized in Montgomery County.
Hardest hit is Montgomery County, where nine residents, including a Lower Providence police officer, have tested positive. Philadelphia officials confirmed the city’s first case Tuesday.
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said a cardiologist who tested positive for the virus treated about two dozen patients and came into contact with 17 staff members at a King of Prussia facility. The physician returned to work after overseas travel and saw patients over four days last week. The hospital said it disinfected and reopened the facility.
At least three people were hospitalized – including the cardiologist – and the rest were at home, officials said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
State Health Secretary Rachel Levine isn’t recommending that large gatherings be canceled, although Montgomery County officials urged the cancellation of all public events and even large private gatherings.
Philadelphia officials are not encouraging school closures, but they are urging people not to attend events of more than 5,000 attendees, including professional sporting events.
Philadelphia canceled its St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Tuesday night, and Pittsburgh and Scranton followed suit Wednesday.
Wolf’s administration told tens of thousands of state workers to avoid out-of-state business travel and large gatherings, but the administration stopped short of ordering otherwise healthy employees to work from home.
As Pittsburgh and Allegheny County released details of their preparedness, the U.S. State Department said foreign ministers from leading industrial nations who had planned to meet in Pittsburgh this month will instead hold a video teleconference.
Penn State, Penn, Pitt and at least a dozen other colleges and universities, almost all in eastern Pennsylvania, are ending in-person instruction and moving classes online, either temporarily or for the semester. Many are canceling events and travel, too.
Penn State, which said it is moving to online classes through at least April 3, also strongly encouraged students to stay home during the three-week period and not return to campus.
Several schools are extending spring break, including Penn, which said students should go home by Sunday for the rest of the semester, or not return from spring break. Penn, along with other Ivy League schools, canceled all spring athletics practice and competition for the rest of the academic year.
Meanwhile, hospitals and prisons, including the state prison in Phoenix, in suburban Philadelphia, moved to tighten visitor policies or screening, and some schools in suburban Philadelphia canceled events or planned to close for a day to test their preparedness.
— Associated Press reporter Michael Rubinkam contributed to this report.
— The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.