Coronavirus update: FDA approves Rutgers saliva test; N.J. to get remdesivir from feds

In this April 3, 2020, photo, a technician holds blue preservation solution in a clean room where saliva collection devices are assembled at Spectrum DNA in Draper, Utah. The company has developed a test kit to detect the coronavirus in patients' saliva. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

In this April 3, 2020, photo, a technician holds blue preservation solution in a clean room where saliva collection devices are assembled at Spectrum DNA in Draper, Utah. The company has developed a test kit to detect the coronavirus in patients' saliva. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Updated 5:12 p.m.

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To date, Pennsylvania has reported 58,196 COVID-19 cases (including confirmed and probable cases). There are 137,085 cases in New Jersey and 6,277 cases in Delaware. Philadelphia has 17,517 cases.

Pennsylvania’s death toll stands at 3,707, New Jersey’s is at 9,116, and Delaware’s is at 221. Philadelphia’s death toll is 875.

Note: Pa. no longer includes probable COVID-19 deaths in its official count, only deaths that have been confirmed through testing.

FDA approves coronavirus test developed by Rutgers University

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first at-home saliva test for COVID-19.

The test, developed through a partnership between Rutgers University and Spectrum Solutions and Accurate Diagnostic Lab, enables people to collect their own saliva at home and send it to a lab for results, eliminating the need for a health care worker to perform more invasive nose and throat swabs at a health care facility or testing site.

“Protecting both patients and health care professionals from any unnecessary exposure is of paramount importance, and saliva home collection addresses almost all issues around testing quality, safety and availability,” Andrew Brooks, chief operating officer of RUCDR Infinite Biologics, said in a statement.

The at-home test also helps limit the risk of health care professionals becoming infected, and potentially helps preserve personal protective equipment for patient care instead of testing, Brooks said.

New Jersey set to receive COVID-19 drug as part of six-state rollout

New Jersey’s death toll from COVID-19 has now eclipsed 9,000. During a Saturday news conference, Gov. Phil Murphy announced 166 new coronavirus-related fatalities. There were 1,759 new positive tests, bringing the total to 137,085.

Murphy said the state is “not out of the woods,” but added that its pandemic protocols are paying off.

“Social distancing is working, wearing a face-covering is working, washing your hands with soap and water is working. And remember these eight words: Public health creates economic health, and data determines dates,” he said.

The grim milestone comes as New Jersey prepares to receive 110 cases of the COVID-19 drug remdesivir from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of a six-state rollout announced Saturday.

Each case of the antiviral drug, which the Food and Drug Administration has approved for helping patients recover more quickly from the coronavirus, contains 40 vials.

“The department is working with the hospitals on a distribution plan that will be equitable and consistent to where the greatest need is,” said state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

In addition to New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut, Maryland and Iowa — all states hit hard by the pandemic — are receiving shipments of remdesivir, HHS said in a statement.

Vials of the drug are being donated by California-based Gilead Sciences.

Murphy said Saturday that officials will release more details related to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing early next week.

More than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases in Pa.

More than 58,000 Pennsylvanians have now tested positive for COVID-19. Nearly 4,000 have died. Excluding Saturday’s subsequent update from the City of Philadelphia, the state reported 1,078 new cases. Philadelphia reported 364 new cases.

“As we prepare to move a number of counties from red to yellow, we need all Pennsylvanians to continue to follow the social distancing and mitigation efforts in place,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement.

On Friday, 24 counties in north and north-central Pennsylvania moved from the “red phase” to “yellow phase” under the state’s color-coded reopening plan.

The same day, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that 13 more counties will begin to reopen on May 15. They are: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.

Wolf has extended shutdown orders in counties in the “red phase,” including Philadelphia, until June 4.

Delaware death toll rises

Eight more Delaware residents have died from COVID-19, bringing the total to 221 since the start of the pandemic.

Among them: a 78-year-old man died May 1, an 82-year-old man died May 5, and a 73-year-old man died May 8. All three died at a Kent County hospital in the central part of the state.

“These heartbreaking losses show how infectious and lethal COVID-19 is, especially for seniors and individuals with serious chronic health conditions,” Dr. Kara Odom, secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Social Services, said in a statement.

State health officials this week announced universal voluntary testing in all long-term care facilities in Delaware for residents and staff.

To date, the state has recorded 6,277 positive cases of COVID-19, with most coming from New Castle or Sussex counties.

Delco plant producing a whole lot of toilet paper

A toilet paper plant in Chester is pumping out more rolls of the white stuff on a daily basis than it ever has before, the Delaware County Daily Times reports.

The Kimberly-Clark Corp. mill is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with two shifts each day, the published report says, and some employees have taken on extra shifts to help keep up with the increased demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

The facility has also simplified its manufacturing process to concentrate on producing Scott 1000 single-ply toilet paper.

Before the pandemic, the plant produced 2 million rolls of Scott 1000 a day — enough to wrap the earth 1,000 times, the mill’s manager told the Delco Daily Times. He would not say how much the facility is producing during the crisis.

New mask protocol at Philly airport

Under an emergency regulation that takes effect on Monday, May 11, all passengers, staffers, and subcontractors must wear face masks while they are inside Philadelphia International Airport.

Face coverings must cover a person’s nose and mouth, except when they are eating, drinking, or alone in his or her office.

Those caught violating the order may be kicked out of the airport.  The regulation, signed Friday, will stay in effect until further notice.

Free testing to open in Lansdale

Next week, a Rite Aid pharmacy on North Broad Street in Lansdale will begin offering free testing to anyone over 18. Starting Sunday, appointments can be made online.

As of Friday, Montgomery County —  one of the harder-hit counties in the state — had nearly 5,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 400 confirmed positive deaths.

Free cribs for Philly families

Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health is offering free Pack n’ Play cribs to families.

Indego, the bike-share company that serves the city, is using its fleet of vans to provide non-contact deliveries.

Expecting moms having trouble getting a crib can call the Health Department at 267-432-5844.

Differences at the beaches in Del., Md.

Signs were posted at every entrance along the Delaware beaches Saturday: Sandy spots were closed with few exceptions because of the coronavirus pandemic. A few people were out walking dogs at Fenwick Beach, but on a sunny, cool day, that was it.

A sign posted in front of Delaware beaches this weekend. (John Mussoni/WHYY)

Go a few miles south and Ocean City, Maryland, was dipping its figurative big toe into the water to see if, given permission, people would come back to that beach resort’s famed boardwalk.

The Ocean City boardwalk in Maryland was packed with people this weekend. (John Mussoni/WHYY)

Face coverings are optional in Maryland. The majority of people out Saturday weren’t wearing them. Social distance was enforced. Temperatures felt like a March day instead of a day in May, but people were out walking along the boardwalk. The lines for Thrasher’s Fries were long, but many shops were still closed.

Artists build a sand sculpture on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland.

A few people were playing in the sand. Artists who create Christian-based sand sculptures were busy doing their work. Two weeks before the Memorial Day weekend, the beach town was sending a signal that it felt the time had come to start reopening for business.

— WHYY staff

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