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Coronavirus update: Pa. gets federal funds to fight food waste and insecurity 

Pennsylvania is joining a federal pilot program to let SNAP recipients buy groceries online. The pilot could begin as early as next month. (Danny Moloshok/AP Photo)

Pennsylvania is joining a federal pilot program to let SNAP recipients buy groceries online. The pilot could begin as early as next month. (Danny Moloshok/AP Photo)

Updated at 7:26 p.m.

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Pennsylvania had 815 new positive COVID-19 cases Wednesday, and a 1.2% increase in total cases over the previous day. Over the past seven days, the commonwealth has recorded an increase of 6,025 cases, or 9.5%.

The state has recorded 68,126 positive cases.

Statewide, Pennsylvania had 146 new deaths as of Wednesday, for a total of 4,770. The Department of Health says this is the result of “continued work to reconcile data from various sources,” and that the deaths have occurred “over the past several weeks.”

Philadelphia reported 227 new positives Wednesday. The city has recorded 20,359 cases so far, and 1,152 deaths.

Pa. gets more federal funds to fight food waste and insecurity 

More than $50 million in federal funding is coming to Pennsylvania to fight food insecurity during the pandemic.

“This vital funding will put fresh, nutritious food on Pennsylvanians’ tables and money in the pockets of our farmers,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in a statement.

This round of funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box program and will go to food distributors.

The money will help buy extra dairy, meat and produce that have nowhere to go as certain markets, such as schools and restaurants, have dried up for farmers.

Distributors will help bring that food to food banks and other non-profits in the commonwealth.

Distributors in Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties are among the recipients.

Pa. SNAP recipients could buy groceries online as early as June

The idea is simple: let Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants choose and pay for their groceries online the way so many other shoppers already do.

It’s a federal pilot program that’s been in the works for years and accelerated by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, Pennsylvania has been given the green light to join the pilot. Setting up and testing the new online system could take about two weeks, so online purchases could be available in the beginning of June.

“In most cases, SNAP recipients do not have flexibility to use online purchasing for grocery delivery or curbside pick-up, potentially putting health and safety at risk during this health crisis,” said the Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller, who welcomed the additional tool to help with social distancing.

According to DHS, SNAP benefits will only cover the cost of food at participating retailers, which includes Amazon, ShopRite and Walmart, and won’t include delivery fees and tips.

Due to the rush in launching the pilot in the state as quickly as possible, DHS said there is no way to cover these fees using Cash Assistance tied to EBT cards.

More federal funds to fight food waste and insecurity

More than $50 million in federal funding is coming to Pennsylvania to fight food insecurity during the pandemic.

“This vital funding will put fresh, nutritious food on Pennsylvanians’ tables and money in the pockets of our farmers,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in a statement.

This round of funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box program and will go to food distributors.

The money will help buy extra dairy, meat and produce that have nowhere to go as certain markets, such as schools and restaurants, have dried up for farmers.

Distributors will help bring that food to food banks and other non-profits in the commonwealth.

Distributors in Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties are among the recipients.

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City parks open, but no BBQs or large gatherings for MDW

Philadelphia’s COVID-19 case counts are falling and there’s more testing available for those who need it. Mayor Jim Kenney would like to keep it that way.

“The last thing we want to see is a holiday weekend wiping out all the progress,” said Kenney in his daily update as he discouraged large gatherings.

City parks and trails will remain open during the Memorial Day holiday, but Kenney said barbecues and large picnics remain off the table for now.

Kenney asked that people who visit the city’s parks take any garbage they create back home with them to prevent trash bins from overflowing.

The city’s trash collection schedule has been one to two days behind on certain weeks as the city faces staffing issues and works on a reduced recycling schedule.

Still, Kenney said there are ways residents can help with the city’s litter problem.

“Don’t throw your trash out your car window,” he said, and secure trash bags on collection days.

Two data points show ‘very real risk of transmission’ in Montco, says Arkoosh

The risk of COVID-19 transmission in Montgomery County is not over despite a steady drop in new cases, said Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Dr. Val Arkoosh Wednesday.

She pointed to some data from the Montgomery County Community College’s COVID-19 testing site. From mid-April to mid-May, the site has offered more 5,800 tests with an overall positive rate of 14%.

But upon closer inspection there have been fluctuations in the number of people showing up sick to the sites.

For example, Arkoosh said the May 7, 8, 11, and 12 yielded an average less than 10% positive.

Take May 13-15, however, and the tests coming back positive ranged between 15% and 19%.

The slight increase comes as the county reports a minor increase in hospital admissions over the past two days – from 250 to more than 260, according to Arkoosh.

“These two data points serve as a reminder that we remain in a situation where there is still a very real risk of virus transmission in our community,” she said, asking people to continue staying home as much as possible.

Wednesday, Arkoosh reported 111 new COVID-19 cases for a total of 6,126. She reported 12 additional residents have died because of the virus, bringing the counties total confirmed deaths to 548. The number of deaths rises to 727 when probable COVID-19 fatalities are included in the count.

Anyone with respiratory systems should get a COVID-19 test

Whether it’s a cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley recommended getting a test at one of the city’s 47 testing sites.

Starting Wednesday. Farley said the city was going to launch new outreach efforts to let people know about the testing sites in their specific neighborhoods.

People can expect automated phone calls with information. The city also plans to post information in local NextDoor forums.

People in need of a test are asked to call ahead of time.

Farley reminded anyone showing no symptoms to mask up. Failure to reopen the city safely, whenever that happens, could lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases and another shutdown.

Part of a safe reopening means people will have to get used to wearing masks.

“In the future, it’s going to have to be so that going into a store without wearing a mask is like it is now going into a store without wearing a shirt,” he said. “It’s just something people don’t do.”

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