63 cases of COVID-19 now confirmed in Pennsylvania

Staff and wire report
A temporary patient screening and testing area, for the COVID-19 Coronavirus, is shown outside the Emergency Department at WellSpan York Hospital in York City, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

With 16 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed by the state Department of Health, Pennsylvania is up to 63 cases, the department announced Sunday.

York County still has no confirmed cases, according to the department. 

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump called on Americans to "just relax" and stop hoarding groceries and other supplies while the nation's top expert on infectious diseases said he would like to see more aggressive restrictions.

Pennsylvania's newest cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus were confirmed in Bucks, Cumberland, Delaware, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, according to a news release Sunday.

All patients confirmed positive are either being isolated at home or receiving treatment at a hospital, the release states. 

One of the new positive cases of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania is a staffer at Lehigh Valley Hospital-17th Street, officials with the health network said Sunday.

More:UPDATED: The latest closings and cancellations in York County

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Approximately 446 people in the state have been tested for the coronavirus, with 205 testing negative. The remaining 183 tests are either on their way to a lab or are being tested. 

“While we anticipate that there will be more Pennsylvanians with COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks, it is important for residents to know the commonwealth is prepared and to be prepared themselves," said Dr. Rachel Levine, state health secretary. 

Trump: Also on Sunday, Trump assured Americans that food supplies will remain available as the coronavirus outbreak continued to spread across the United States.

Trump, after speaking with leading grocery chain executives, said that grocers would remain open and that the supply chain remained healthy. Speaking at the same White House news conference, Vice President Mike Pence urged Americans to only buy the groceries they need for the week ahead.

“You don't have to buy so much," Trump said at a news conference. "Take it easy. Just relax.”

Call for stricter measures: The comments from the president came after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said he would like to see aggressive measures such as a 14-day national shutdown that would require Americans to hunker down even more to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Still, Fauci said travel restrictions within the United States, such as to and from hard-hit Washington state and California, probably would not be needed anytime soon.

Response: The Trump administration said millions of new coronavirus tests would be made available in the coming weeks, including tests that speed processing of samples, but it was encouraging Americans to exercise restraint in seeking to get tested.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coordinator for responding to the pandemic, said those most vulnerable to the respiratory disease and the health care providers treating them should go first.

“We ask you to prioritize them and prioritize them in the lines,” she said.

Birx said that will result in a “spike” in positive results as more people gain access to tests.

Pence said that he and the president would brief the nation's governors on Monday “specifically about our expanding testing to the American people."

Officials in Washington were preparing for what was expected to be a long-haul effort to try to stem the virus that has upended life around the globe. “The worst is yet ahead for us,” Fauci said. “It is how we respond to that challenge that is going to determine what the ultimate endpoint is going to be.”

For most people living in an area without an active outbreak, the risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 is low, according to the World Health Organization. And most people who get the virus will experience mild symptoms, such as a fever and cough, and will fully recover in about two weeks, the WHO has said.

But in the elderly and in people with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, COVID-19 can lead to serious illness with a longer recovery time of three to six weeks.

On Friday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf elected to close all public and private K-12 schools in the state, affecting 1.7 million children.

Before the governor's order, local superintendents met Friday with state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera and decided to close all public schools in York County.

Southern York County School District was the first district in York County to close, sending out a notice late Thursday that Friday classes would be canceled because a "community member" was being tested for coronavirus.

Schools will be closed through March 30, according to district websites. Extracurricular activities and athletics also are canceled.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.