Pa. Gov. Wolf signs emergency declaration after 2 confirmed coronavirus cases

Pennsylvania and New Jersey officials disclosed additional presumed positive cases of coronavirus Sunday, bringing each state’s totals to six. (California Department of Public Health via AP Photo)

Pennsylvania and New Jersey officials disclosed additional presumed positive cases of coronavirus Sunday, bringing each state’s totals to six. (California Department of Public Health via AP Photo)

Updated 2:21 p.m.

Pennsylvania has confirmed its first two cases of the new coronavirus, one in Delaware County and one in Wayne County, and health officials hoped to track down people who had contact with them, Gov. Tom Wolf and state officials said Friday.

More positive tests for the virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, are expected in the coming days and weeks, state officials said.

The first two positive tests came back early Friday, and the two people are isolated in their homes, Wolf told a news conference at Pennsylvania Emergency Management Headquarters in Harrisburg. Afterward, the governor signed an emergency disaster declaration to grant state agencies more freedom to use resources to respond to the virus, the administration said.

Details that would reveal the identities of the infected people are not being released, officials said, and they are not disclosing how many tests for the virus have been run at a state lab.

Wolf urged people to remain calm, and said his Department of Health is staffed with highly trained medical and public health personnel who, along with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, are coordinating with every level of government.

One of the confirmed cases is an adult who recently had exposure to an infected person in another state, and Pennsylvania health officials became aware of it right away, according to Dr. Sharon Watkins, the director for the state’s Bureau of Epidemiology. That person, a woman, is in Delaware County, officials there said.

The other confirmed case, in Wayne County, is an adult who recently traveled extensively in Europe, including to countries where the new virus is widespread, Watkins said.

Their exposure to others in Pennsylvania is being investigated, but health officials believe, for now, that it is relatively limited, Watkins said.

Officials worked Friday to locate people who had close contact with the two infected people and will ask them to quarantine themselves for 14 days, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.

Officials otherwise gave the same advice that they have been giving for weeks: People should wash their hands regularly, be prudent in crowds, cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing, clean surfaces frequently, stay home if they feel sick and call a health care provider if they fear they have COVID-19.

Separately, classes were canceled Friday at five schools in a Bucks County school district because some members of its community were exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, district officials said.

The school district’s action is unrelated to the two cases confirmed in Pennsylvania, and there was no confirmed case of the new coronavirus in Bucks County, health officials said.

Tamanend Middle School student Brianna Muntz, 14, uses a disposable hand wipe as she plays with friends on the Titus Elementary School playground. Both schools were closed, along with three others in Central Bucks County, as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The decision to close the schools was made “out of an abundance of caution” after consultations with state and local health officials, Central Bucks Superintendent John Kopicki said.

The schools will be deep cleaned.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 climbed to 14, with all but one victim in Washington state, while the number of infections increased to over 200 across 18 states.

The virus has infected around 100,000 people worldwide and killed over 3,400, the vast majority of them in China. Most cases have been mild, and more than half of those infected have recovered.

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