Updated 5:40 p.m.
Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health Rachel Levine says the money will go towards county and municipal health departments, staff overtime, the state laboratory, and long-term care facilities to make sure they can control infections.
Philadelphia has opened an emergency operations center in response to the coronavirus outbreak, bringing various agencies together to share information and respond to developments. Those agencies include the city’s Department of Public Health, the Fire Department, the Police Department, the school district, and SEPTA.
In a statement, the Office of Emergency Management said the operations center brings city departments and outside parties “together face-to-face in one room for setting objectives along with real-time interagency coordination” and decision-making.
Wednesday afternoon, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.” He added the WHO has never before seen a pandemic caused by a coronavirus.
The WHO’s risk management guidance defines a pandemic as a period when there is “global spread of human influenza caused by a new subtype based on global surveillance.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 16 presumed positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.
Two new cases from Bucks County were announced Tuesday night. In an advisory, the county said the two people live together and had attended an out-of-state gathering recently. Both are adults and are in isolation at home, according to the state Department of Health.
A 35-year-old male police officer in the Lower Providence police department tested positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the total in Montgomery County to 9. Health officials are figuring out all the people this person has been in contact with. He had direct contact with a previously announced positive case. He is in isolation at home.
There is a 61-year-old man from another state who has also tested positive. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, said the counts are based on where people live, so this person is not included in the number of Pennsylvania cases.
Arkoosh asked that people in the county cancel public and even large private gatherings, for the sake of people who are most vulnerable, like the elderly, people who are immunocompromised or have serious underlying medical conditions. She called on local employers to offer sick pay, even if it’s temporary so that people do not feel pressure to come to work.
There is one new case in Montgomery County.
All three are adults and are in isolation at home, according to the state Department of Health.
Patients who test positive locally are referred to as “presumptive” until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm the test results.
Number of presumptive cases in Pennsylvania: 16
Number of presumptive cases in Delaware: 1
Up till now, 173 people in Pennsylvania have been tested for the new coronavirus: 100 tested negative, 16 are presumed positive (of which the CDC has confirmed only two) and 57 are pending, according to Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine.
Levine said she anticipates that there will be people who get infected with the new coronavirus and public health officials will not be able to figure out how which is called community spread. She points to how this has happened in California, Washington state, New York, and other countries. She said when there is more community spread, state, local and federal authorities will consider larger-scale measures to stop the virus from spreading, like putting off large public gatherings.
She said she does not recommend closing public schools but supports colleges and universities that are moving to remote classes.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced that as of Thursday, officials at the state prison at Phoenix in Montgomery County will screen all visitors and employees for symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone who shows symptoms, has been in contact with any presumed positive cases, or refuses to be screened will not be allowed to go in. The department says this is happening at this prison because of the number of cases in Montgomery County. The PA DOC may do this in other locations too if other parts of the state have more cases.
Around 600 people in Philadelphia have quarantined themselves voluntarily thus far, KYW Newsradio’s Alex Silverman tweeted Wednesday morning, citing a city health official. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health does not recommend closing schools and churches as of now.
Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Philadelphia has been canceled, however.
The University of Pennsylvania announced spring break will be extended for a week, except for students in health-related schools, in clinical rotations, or who have already started spring break. All classes will be virtual starting on March 23. The university says students on campus should leave by March 15, and students who are out of town should not go back to campus. The university added it will support those who cannot go home or are on financial aid.
Penn State announced that starting on March 16, all classes will be taught remotely until April 3. The plan is to start in-person classes again on April 6. The university will stay open for faculty and staff. The university says students should go home or stay home, but will work with students who cannot do so.
Lehigh University announced that as of March 16, classes will be taught remotely for two weeks.
Villanova University will continue having classes in person until March 13, so faculty can prepare students for online classes. Starting on March 15, all classes will be taught online, and the university will decide by April 3 whether to bring back in-person classes.
Swarthmore College will extend spring break till March 20. Starting March 23, all classes will be taught remotely till at least April 3. The college asks students to stay home or go home if possible and has a housing request form for students who cannot travel home for any reason.
Bryn Mawr College will have all classes remotely from March 16 till at least April 3.
West Chester University announced that all classes will be taught remotely for the rest of the spring semester, from now till May 4.
Bucks County Community College announced that all campuses will be closed from March 14 to March 22 for deep cleaning and that all events will be suspended. All college-related travel is suspended until March 31.
Lincoln University announced that all classes are canceled this week so its faculty can figure out how to teach remotely. Starting next week, classes will continue but will not meet in person for the rest of the semester.
Haverford College announced that starting on March 16, faculty will contact students to start planning virtual classes. Those will start on March 23. As of now, the plan is to have classes back on campus on April 6. College president Wendy Raymond stressed that the school is not closing, students who cannot go home will not be turned away, meals and health services will continue.
Chestnut Hill College is closed until March 15.
WXPN announced that starting on March 13, all Free at Noon concerts will be closed to the public through April 17. The station is working with the artists to provide broadcasts.