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Coronavirus update: Trump declares ‘major disaster’ in Del.; Feds give N.J. 500 more ventilators

Keona Berry walks down Market Street with a protective mask on her face on Friday, March 27, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

Keona Berry walks down Market Street with a protective mask on her face on Friday, March 27, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

Updated 3:40 p.m.

As of Sunday afternoon, there are 11,564 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, 37,505 in New Jersey, and 673 cases in Delaware. Philadelphia has 3,189 cases.

Pennsylvania’s death toll stands at 150, New Jersey’s at 917, and Delaware’s at 14.

Trump approves major disaster declaration for Delaware

President Donald Trump has issued a major disaster declaration to Delaware because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The president has previously granted the designation to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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

The “major disaster” distinction makes Delaware eligible for additional aid, including direct federal funding as the state tries to slow the spread of the virus.

Philly reports eight more COVID-19 deaths

Philadelphia reported 181 new COVID-19 cases Sunday afternoon, bringing the total to 3,189 known cases of the virus. The city’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, said this is likely an underreporting, as some laboratories are not sending test results over the weekend.

Philadelphia hospitals are currently treating 474 patients with COVID-19, according to health officials.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health also reported that eight additional patients have died, bringing the total number of fatalities to 43.

According to state health officials, most of the hospitalized patients and most of the fatalities have been among patients 65 or older.

Feds give N.J. 500 more ventilators

New Jersey has now been granted half of the 2,500 ventilators Gov. Phil Murphy has asked of the federal government.

On Sunday, Murphy tweeted he’d secured an additional 500 ventilators from the White House, that’s in addition to the 850 machines the state had already been granted as of Friday — 14 of which were faulty.

Speaking on NPR’s Morning Edition Friday, Murphy said the state had not gotten nearly as much as it needed from the federal stockpile.

In the past week, Murphy has said New Jersey has not made as much progress acquiring ventilators the way it has with other equipment, such as masks for health care workers.

Murphy said ventilators remain the state’s number one need.

“I won’t stop fighting to get us the equipment we need to save every life we can,” Murphy said Sunday in a tweet.

As of Friday, State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said roughly 40% of the state’s COVID-19 cases, or 1,227 patients, required the breathing machines.

The state had 1,700 ventilators before the coronavirus outbreak.

Large Pa. facilities ordered to clean, clean, clean

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine has issued additional cleaning protocols for larger buildings that remain open because they’re part of life-sustaining operations.

In addition to any previous cleaning measures implemented by facilities larger than 50,000 square feet — such as grocery stores, warehouses and airports — businesses need to clean “high-touch areas routinely” in accordance with federal guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Facilities housing manufacturing sites, commercial offices, universities, colleges, government, hotels and residential buildings with at least 50 units are also subject to the order.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest cleaning hard surfaces with a detergent or bleach solution. For electronics with touch screens, it’s suggested businesses remove any visible contamination and consider a wipeable cover. If the manufacturer didn’t include instructions on how to disinfect the electronic, the CDC recommends using alcohol-based wipes.

Stil Pennsylvania employees who have continued reporting to work, including warehouse and delivery workers, have reported improper cleaning of their workplaces.

The new cleaning protocols come as Pennsylvania reported 1,493 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 11,510 cases.

In addition to making sure there are enough people to implement these cleaning measures, Levine’s order states these facilities need to ensure a “sufficient number of security employees to control access, maintain order and enforce social distancing of at least 6 feet, provided the security employees are otherwise responsible for such enforcement.”

A spokesperson for the department said enforcement of the new cleaning protocols would resemble that of the state’s life-sustaining business order.

The Pennsylvania State Police has been issuing warnings to businesses that violate the governor’s orders, but noncompliant businesses can also be subject to penalties such as fines. So far, the state police have issued zero citations to violators.

Former Eagles kicker Tom Dempsey dies

Former Eagles kicker Tom Dempsey, who played in the NFL despite being born without toes on his kicking foot and made a record 63-yard field goal, died late Saturday while struggling with complications from the new coronavirus, his daughter said. He was 73 years old.

Dempsey spent 11 seasons in the NFL: His first two seasons were with New Orleans (1969-70), the next four with the Philadelphia Eagles, then two with the Los Angeles Rams, one with the Houston Oilers and the final two with Buffalo. He retired after the 1979 season.

Dempsey returned to New Orleans after retiring from the league. About seven years ago, he was diagnosed with dementia and later moved to an assisted living home, where he contracted the coronavirus in March during the pandemic that has hit the city — and nursing home — particularly hard. He is survived by wife Carlene, three children, a sister and grandchildren.

Second Delaware corrections officer tests positive

A second correctional officer with the Delaware Department of Correction has tested positive for COVID-19. So far, no one in the prison population has tested positive.

The employee was assigned to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, the state’s largest prison, as was the first correctional officer to test positive on Friday. Officials said it is likely the two officers came into contact with each other while working in the prison’s maximum-security housing area.

The second correctional officer was last at work on Tuesday and started to experience “flu-like symptoms.” The officer took a COVID-19 test the same day and has isolated at home since, like the first officer. Those who worked in close contact with the two officers for the last 14 days have been asked to self-isolate and monitor themselves for the next two weeks.

“The DOC is acting swiftly at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and across our facilities to confront the risks of COVID-19, with new protective and quarantine measures on top of the rigorous prevention and screening practices that have been in place for several weeks,” said DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis.

In addition to deep cleanings in the area where the officers worked, the department said it is conducting symptom checks of all staff and prisoners in the maximum-security housing area twice a day, including temperature checks.

To mitigate the spread of the virus, those living in the exposed maximum security housing area will participate in isolated recreation.

The only other COVID-19 case within the DOC was a contract health care worker assigned to New Castle County Community Corrections. That worker has already made a full recovery, according to the department.

The state’s Chief Public Defender and Attorney General have urged the department to release some prisoners to help prevent a serious outbreak in the system.

N.J. municipalities can put additional limits on short-term rentals

Beginning Sunday night at 8 p.m., New Jersey municipalities will be able to place additional restrictions on short-term rentals, such as hotels, motels and guest houses, during the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Phil Murphy had previously granted county and municipal governments the authority to place restrictions on online marketplaces like Airbnb. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said his administration would remove Airbnbs and other short-term rentals from its list of life-sustaining businesses after a surge of coronavirus cases in the Poconos, which some attributed to out-of-towners flocking in.

According to Murphy, even with the current restrictions on online rentals, people continue to try and relocate to New Jersey shore towns to get away from COVID-19 hotspots.

“Many of our shore communities lack the health care infrastructure to accommodate an influx of part-time residents. New Jerseyans should stay at their primary place of residence for the duration of this emergency,” said Murphy in his announcement granting local governments additional powers to curb short-term rentals.

People who have been ordered by the state to shelter in a particular area and health care workers are among those exempt from these additional regulations.

To date, the state has more than 34,000 known cases of COVID-19, the second-highest in the country, though the majority remain in the northern half of the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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