Coronavirus update: Pa. sees highest daily increase in deaths as state investigates older cases

Appoquinimink School District social worker Jackee Wade at the Fredrick Lodge Manufactured Home Community in Townsend, Del. on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

Appoquinimink School District social worker Jackee Wade at the Fredrick Lodge Manufactured Home Community in Townsend, Del. on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

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As of Sunday afternoon, there are 32,734 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, 85,301 in New Jersey, and 2,538 cases in Delaware. Philadelphia has 9,214 cases.

Pennsylvania’s death toll stands at 1,237, New Jersey’s at 4,202, and Delaware’s at 67. Philadelphia’s death toll is 365.

Updated 5:45 p.m.

Pa. sees highest daily increase in deaths as state investigates older cases

Pennsylvania reported 1,215 new cases Sunday afternoon, bringing the statewide total to 32,734.

The state also reported the largest daily increase in deaths with 276 fatalities among patients who tested positive and those who likely had COVID-19.

However, there is a major caveat to that statistic.

Health Secretary Rachel Levine said the majority of these deaths did not occur within the past 24 hours, and that the increase is due to the state reconciling data from several sources, including county and municipal health departments, and finishing investigations into some cases.

Some reports list several possible causes of death, with COVID-19 cited as a possible “fourth or fifth cause,” said Levine in her daily briefing Sunday. State epidemiologists then have to investigate to determine whether the patient had previously tested positive for COVID-19 and whether the virus is the cause of death.

“We want to provide you with the most accurate information possible and that will mean that at times there will be a single day’s report that will show big increases like today,” said Levine.

As protestors get ready to swarm the Capitol Monday to demand the state ease stay-at-home orders, Levine urged them to practice social distancing while they exercise their First Amendment right.

“If, however, they get out of their cars and they’re not practicing social distancing, if they’re not wearing masks, if they’re having personal contact like shaking hands, etc … then that is a public health risk and I’m concerned for their health,” said Levine, adding the protestors could bring the virus back to their hometowns and get others sick, even if they don’t show signs of illness.

The protest comes as the state reports 1,618 health care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and most of the deaths affect people 65 and older.

To date, 2,629 patients or less than 10% of all COVID-19 cases are in the hospital.

Hospitals report 45% of beds, 39% ICU beds and 70% of ventilators remain available.

3 residents in Delaware facilities die of COVID-19

Delaware reported three more COVID-19 deaths Sunday. All of the patients, women in their 70s and 80s, were living in the Department of Health and Social Services medical facilities. They are the second, third and fourth DHSS residents to die from the virus.

Two of the patients were living at the Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill in Smyrna and the third woman was living at the Delaware Psychiatric Center near New Castle.

Across the country, congregate settings with an elderly population have become hot spots for outbreaks.

“Our Division of Public Health and the Division of Health Care Quality are working closely with the facilities to help care for those who are sick, and to protect the health and safety of all other residents and staff,” said DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker in a statement.

According to the department, that includes making sure strong screening measures and infection control are in place at these facilities.

So far, Delaware has reported 67 COVID-19 fatalities.

Philly mayor asks Trump for emergency funds for cities

As Philadelphia continues to spend an “extraordinary” amount to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Jim Kenney joined mayors across the country in asking President Donald Trump to provide emergency funding for the local governments.

Congress is currently considering another relief package that would provide billions in emergency funding for hospitals and would replenish a federal loan program for small businesses, which was tapped dry in less than two weeks.

In his letter, Kenney asked that Trump consider offering emergency funding to cities, “which are heavily dependent on income, business, sales and other taxes that are highly sensitive to the economy.”

With businesses shuttered, the city has been collecting a lot less tax revenue, just as it increases spending.

“Without this assistance, cities like Philadelphia will be forced to take drastic steps to balance their budgets, including massive layoffs and drastic cuts to vital services, which will deprive residents of the services they need, exacerbate the damage being done to local economies and lessen the possibility of a speedy economic recovery,” Kenney wrote.

Philadelphia reported 200 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the total to 9,214. With an additional 22 deaths, the city’s total stands at 365 — half of these are among residents of long-term care facilities.

Face mask requirement to enter Pa. businesses starts Sunday night

Starting 8 p.m. Sunday, Pennsylvania’s life-sustaining businesses allowed to operate during the statewide shutdowns will have to offer certain protections, such as face masks, to its employees.

Customers will also have to wear face masks as they enter essential businesses like grocery stores. People who don’t follow the rule face the risk of being denied entry.

Like other public health initiatives put out by the state during the COVID-19 outbreak, the new requirements will be left largely to an honor system.

“Pennsylvanians want to do the right thing and they will do the right thing, and that’s of course including our fantastic businesses,” said Health Secretary Rachel Levine during her Sunday briefing. “I think if a store is regularly not following that the local officials might give a warning and we’ll see if there are continued problems with that.”

More food help coming to Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s food banks are slated to receive millions in deliveries of meats, vegetables, canned goods, dry goods, eggs and more.

The state is getting close to $15 million in federal funds for food banks, which have been facing unprecedented demand, according to Gov. Tom Wolf.

“We’re proud of the Pennsylvanians who are sacrificing so much for the greater good,” said Wolf in a statement. “We’ll continue to push hard and advocate on their behalf, because no one should have to go without when they’re doing their part to save lives.”

Close to $4 million will go to cover the administrative costs of storage and distribution for 18 food banks across the state.

More than $11 million will go to the purchase of food.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is also setting aside $1 million for the nonprofit Hunger-Free Pennsylvania.

Find your nearest food pantry here.

Pa. small business owners: Beware of scammers 

The COVID-19 pandemic is not slowing down scammers looking to swindle Pennsylvania business owners out of money.

The state Department of Community and Economic Development said it has received complaints from residents who’ve gotten phone calls from people posing as agents calling in reference to loans facilitated by the federal government. The scammers have been asking Pennsylvania business owners for payments to apply for these loans.

In March, the state gained access to U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Small businesses and nonprofits could apply for up to $2 million in loans to pay off debts and continue operations during the pandemic.

Businesses across the country, which saw sales screech to a halt amid mandated shutdowns, flooded the loan program with applications and encountered technical difficulties. The program ran out of its $349 billion in funds in less than two weeks.

“While this pandemic has showcased some of the very best amongst us in our state stepping up, there are individuals who unfortunately will take advantage of vulnerable citizens,” said Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin.

Bucks County Park trails to reopen Monday

Bucks County nature-lovers rejoice as county park trails re-open Monday.

The parks were closed at the end of March after residents flocked to them during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

As the trails reopen, people are advised to wear masks during walks and to keep a 6-foot distance from others.

Playgrounds, the dog park, and county park facilities, including offices, remain closed.

WHYY’s Robby Brod contributed reporting.

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