Health officials confirm 560 new COVID-19 cases; statewide total rises to 1,687

    (Image via The Pittsburgh Current)

    (*Updated, 3 p.m., to include comment from Gov. Tom Wolf)

    The number of new COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania doubled as the statewide total rose to 1,687, the state Department of Health said Thursday.

    The department announced 560 cases, a little more than two times the 276 cases announced Wednesday.

    “There’s going to be a lag before we see evidence of the bending of that curve,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, state Secretary of Health.

    The pandemic has now spread to 48 of 67 counties, including the first known cases in Crawford, Indiana, Blair and Susquehanna counties. The department announced five new deaths, bringing statewide fatalities to 16.

    The state has test results for 18,128 people for coronavirus, 16,441 of whom have tested negative.

    “The reality is we are just seeing the beginning of this crisis,” Gov. Tom Wolf said during a Thursday press conference.

    Schools and non-”life-sustaining” businesses — including most services, retail and restaurant dining rooms — are all closed until April 6 under orders from Wolf. The orders could be extended, while Wolf has also floated a statewide stay-at-home order.

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    Under such an order, already active in 10 counties, individuals can only leave their homes to purchase groceries, go to work, get exercise or provide care for a relative among other prescribed activities.

    The Department of Health continues to urge people to stay at home, avoid gatherings and minimize errands to contain the spreading of coronavirus.

    Wolf added he was considering suspending charter and regularly scheduled bus services into Pennsylvania from effect states.

    “Everything we’re trying to do right here is to buy time,” Wolf said.