(Image via The Pittsburgh Current)
This story was updated at 2:45 p.m. with new information from an afternoon press conference.
In an afternoon press conference at Pennsylvania Emergency Management Headquarters, state health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine confirmed that as of 12 a.m. Wednesday, there were 133 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide.
Levine urged residents to stay home as the number of known cases continues to climb.
“Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm; stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is stay home,” Levine said in a statement.
COVID-19 has now been confirmed in 18 counties across the state, including Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Lehigh and York counties.
With 42 confirmed cases, Montgomery County has moved to a community spread model to fight the virus, the first Pennsylvania county to do so.
On advice from @PAHealthDept, @MontcoPA is moving to community spread model in contact tracing and not updating where or how the virus was contracted. @VAArk says that step is not unexpected with a virus like this.
— Jim Melwert (@JMelwert) March 18, 2020
The number of known cases in Pennsylvania has grown as commercial and state-owned labs expanded their testing capabilities. More than 1,300 Pennsylvanians have been tested for the virus as of Wednesday, according to the Department of Health.
Levine said Wednesday that the Department of Health expects to those numbers continue to increase.
“We are seeing that exponential curve in terms of new cases,” Levine said.
To cope with the rise of confirmed COVID cases, Levine said the agency’s strategy continues to be “mitigation and preparation.”
“We need to prepare for the likely surge of patients,” Levine said.
Levine said that DOH is working with the health care system and hospitals to prepare for the continued onslaught of COVID patients to ensure they have enough beds, ventilators and medical equipment.
Aging secretary Robert Torres, who was also in attendance Wednesday, asked seniors to stay put. Torres noted that senior centers across the state have been closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to senior populations.
“I would encourage them [seniors] to stay home,” Torres said. “I would encourage family members to encourage social distancing.”
Torres suggested friends and family of seniors interact via phone or Facetime, instead of face-to-face visits and asked seniors to take advantage of prescription delivery services instead of public pharmacy visits.
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