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Gov. orders Delaware visitors to self-quarantine; Pa. reports first COVID-19 case in state prison

Clinical staff workers conduct a drive-through COVID-19 test Wednesday, March 18, 2020, at Allegheny Health Network's Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion in Wexford, Pa. (Steph Chambers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP Photo)

Clinical staff workers conduct a drive-through COVID-19 test Wednesday, March 18, 2020, at Allegheny Health Network's Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion in Wexford, Pa. (Steph Chambers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP Photo)

Updated 6:00 p.m.

To date, there are 3,394 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, 13,386 in New Jersey, and 232 cases in Delaware. Philadelphia has 890 cases.

Pennsylvania’s death toll stands at 38, New Jersey’s at 161, and Delaware’s at 6.

Del. orders out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine

Delaware Gov. John Carney says now is not the time to visit the First State. On Sunday, the governor ordered anyone coming from outside the state to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The order, which is a modification of Carney’s state of emergency declaration, goes into effect Monday 8 a.m. and also applies to anyone who has entered the state in the past two weeks, unless they’re a health care worker or someone assisting an essential business.

“Delawareans need to stay at home, and anyone from another state visiting Delaware should immediately self-quarantine for two weeks,” Carney said in his announcement.

State and local law enforcement will have the authority to stop vehicles in Delaware with out-of-state license plates to ask quarantine-related questions. A violation of the order constitutes a criminal offense, according to Carney’s announcement.

Pa. DOC reports first COVID-19 case among incarcerated population

An incarcerated person in Montgomery County’s SCI Phoenix has tested positive for COVID-19. It’s the first confirmed case among the incarcerated population in Pennsylvania.

“The inmate is in the prison’s infirmary and is isolated from other inmates,” said Pennsylvania’s Corrections Secretary John Wetzel in a statement.

According to the department, officials have located and isolated other incarcerated people who may have come in contact with the patient to a specific housing unit.

Those in that unit, including DOC staff, have been given personal protective gear to wear and increased cleanings of cells and common areas are still taking place.

DOC officials had already suspended visitations through April 10 and started enhanced screening of all staff. Any staff with a fever of 100.4 or higher is not allowed inside.

The efforts are to prevent widespread outbreaks, which advocates, as well as corrections and health officials fear could ravage a prison’s population because they live in close quarters and spend so much time together.

Advocates have called for the release of those serving time for nonviolent offenses, but Wetzel said housing and health insurance are just some of the things officials need to consider.

Wilmington police officer tests positive

A Wilmington Police Officer has tested positive for COVID-19 as Delaware reports 232 cases in the state, up from 213 Saturday.

The officer, who is the third city employee to test positive for the virus, has been in self-isolation at home since March 15.

Police staff retraced who the officer came in contact with when he last worked out of police headquarters. Health officials determined no deep-cleaning was necessary.

Nursing home residents make up 5 of Philly’s 8 COVID-19 deaths

Philadelphia reported 84 additional COVID-19 cases Sunday afternoon, bringing the city’s total to 890. City health officials also reported four more fatalities.

Of the four deaths, all of the people were older than 70 and three were nursing home residents.

Seniors, especially those with underlying medical conditions, are especially vulnerable to complications brought on by the virus. Nursing homes in cities like Seattle have been susceptible to outbreaks and that vulnerability is starting to show in Philadelphia. Of the city’s eight COVID-19-related fatalities, five of the people lived in nursing homes.

“This is why it is of critical importance that nursing homes across the city and region immediately take action to protect their residents and staff by banning all visitors, requiring all staff to wear masks and regularly screening staff for symptoms,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

The city is not disclosing the location of the nursing homes where residents tested positive to protect their privacy.

People who are 50 and older, as well as health care workers, showing COVID-19 symptoms can go to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia to get tested through 6 p.m. Sunday, weather permitting. Here’s more information on how to get tested in the Philly area from WHYY’s Billy Penn.

Pa. lays off 2,500 people

On Friday, Pennsylvania laid off about 2,500 part-time and seasonal state employees, as well as interns, according to a report from WHYY partner Spotlight PA.

The revenue and transportation departments are among those affected by the layoffs, according to state officials, which come as Pennsylvania cuts expenses through a hiring freeze and ban on department purchases.

Still, the departments key to the state’s COVID-19 response, including labor and health, were not affected by the layoffs.

Pennsylvania seeks ‘major disaster’ declaration as cases rise

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is asking the federal government to declare a “major disaster” in the state so residents impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns can have access to additional federal help.

President Donald Trump made such a declaration in New Jersey on Thursday.

The country is already under a national emergency declaration, issued this month, which freed up $50 billion in federal funds for cities and states.

For Pennsylvania, the declaration would mean the state would be eligible for “emergency protective measures to state, county and local governments and certain nonprofits for the duration of the emergency incident,” Wolf said in a statement.

But Wolf said the state needs more help and is requesting access to programs, such as Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Community Disaster Loans, which are for people who have incurred a financial loss due to a major disaster.

“While some businesses have fortunately been able to maintain payroll during this outbreak, many businesses have had to lay off employees, causing tens of thousands of unemployment claims in the Commonwealth,” Wolf wrote in the state’s application, adding a wave of unemployment applications would soon strain the state’s ability to help those out of work.

Wolf also sought access to the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program, which would help the state offer additional support to low-income families who become food insecure because of COVID-19 related shutdowns.

The state’s predicament, he said, is compounded by its large population of seniors (2.2 million over the age of 65), who are more susceptible to COVID-19, and 12.1% poverty rate.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has taxed our commonwealth and our communities in ways that are almost incomprehensible,” he said.

The state reported 649 new cases Sunday afternoon, bringing the statewide total to 3,394 positives across 58 counties.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said 10.4% percent of cases have required hospitalization with 64 patients needing ventilators.

Of all the Pennsylvania residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, 41% are 25 to 49 years old.

“Younger adults and middle-aged adults should not be complacent,” Levine said of the data. “They can get very sick, too.”

Levine reiterated that the state is trying to prevent a large surge of patients in hospitals, which is why Wolf has issued stay-at-home orders for 22 counties.

Philly officials ‘scurrying’ to prepare for wave of hospitalizations

A Major League Baseball jersey manufacturer is making protective gear for medical staff and Temple University is converting its 11,000-seat Liacouras Center arena as a patient overflow space. Those are just some of the ways Philadelphia is preparing for a predicted surge of COVID-19 patients who could require hospitalization.

Mayor Jim Kenney appeared on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday to discuss the city’s efforts to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

“We don’t have what we need,” Kenney said of the city’s supply of personal protective gear. “We are scurrying around to find what we need.”

In addition to taking help from Fanatics, the MLB uniform manufacturer, Kenney said the city is looking at how manufacturers in the city could help make other needed protective gear.

Philadelphia has simultaneously been working to find sites suitable to use as patient overflow spaces. Kenney has said officials hope Temple’s Liacouras Center won’t have to be used at all.

“Temple stepped up big time,” Kenney told NPR. “It makes me very emotional to think about how Temple just stepped up when we asked them for the first time and we had to go back and forth and dick around with a multi-millionaire owner who wanted to maximize his profits, a million dollars a month to let us use the hospital.”

Temple is offering its arena and other facilities free of charge, unlike the owners of the shuttered Hahnemann University Hospital, which was also considered as a possible overflow site. The building’s owner, Joel Freedman, was requesting close to $1 million a month in rent.

“We moved on,” Kenney told NPR of the Hahnemann negotiations. “This is not a normal real estate transaction. This is a terrible, terrible crisis that we’re dealing with. You would hope that people with great means would be more understanding, but apparently it’s not.”

In addition to preparing the city’s health care system for an influx of patients, Philadelphia continues to set up aid for families affected by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Starting Monday, residents will be able to pick up five-day supplies of food for their families.

People don’t need an ID or proof of income to pick up a box in one of 20 sites across the city.

A list of pickup locations is available here.

CDC issues travel advisory for N.J.

Late Saturday, the CDC issued a domestic travel advisory for New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, urging residents of those states to refrain from non-essential travel for the next 14 days. The advisory does not affect those working to deliver essential goods and services, such as food and health care.

It comes after President Donald Trump thought about, then walked back a quarantine affecting residents of the three states which have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Saturday that he’s been in communication with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and that their guidance doesn’t change the rules he’s already had in place in the state for over a week.

“If you have been working as part of our frontline response effort, from health care workers to supermarket workers, we still need you on the job,” Murphy said in a statement Saturday night.

On an appearance on WBLS radio Sunday morning, Murphy said his two priorities are to slow the spread of the virus and to get health care workers the personal protective equipment they need to treat COVID-19. 

“We’re going to show the nation how you break the back of this virus, how you flatten that curve,” said Murphy, who warned his administration would break up any “corona parties” with “great swiftness.”

The governor said he’s also seeking 2,300 ventilators from the country’s Strategic National Stockpile. 

“If we had to get them in installments, assuming we get them in time, I could live with that,” he said. 

A new analysis from Rutgers University found the state could be at least 60,000 hospital beds short of what will be needed to treat the projected number of patients with COVID-19, and that those shortages could begin in April.

This weekend, Murphy also announced a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments for borrowers affected economically by the coronavirus. 

In addition, there will be a 60-day moratorium on the initiation of evictions or foreclosures in the state, Murphy said.

Delco seeks volunteers for Glen Mills medical site

Delaware County is looking for 700 volunteers to help staff a patient overflow site at the former Glen Mills Schools.

The all-boys reformatory school was shut down last year after The Philadelphia Inquirer reported a pattern of abuse, but as Philadelphia area hospitals expect an overflow of COVID-19 patients, the site will serve as an alternative care site to treat patients with other medical needs. 

The county is asking any active or retired health care workers, medical students and behavioral health professionals to volunteer.

The site is also in need of other administrative and support staff.

“During this unprecedented challenge, we need residents to step up and help where they can,” said Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek.

Those interested in volunteering can sign up to be part of the Citizen Corps here

WHYY’s Miles Bryan and The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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