Levine: University of Wash.’s projected COVID-19 death count for Pa. shows risk of reopening too fast

    Pa. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine briefs the press on Saturday, 4/25/20

    New projections by the University of Washington showing 8,607 COVID-19 fatalities for Pennsylvania through August underlines the need for the state to reopen slowly, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Tuesday.

    As of midday Tuesday, Pennsylvania had logged 3,012 confirmed fatalities from the pandemic, according to Health Department data. Two-dozen counties in north-central and northwestern Pennsylvania are due to reopen Friday, with restrictions in place.

    The university’s data, which has been one of the key barometers for tracking the coronavirus’ spread nationwide “really highlights basis of [Gov. Tom Wolf’s] careful reopening strategy,” Levine said during an online news briefing.

    As she has in the past, the state’s top public health official continued to stress that the decision to move counties through the state’s color-coded reopening scheme will “be done in a very careful, data-driven way. We will do this in a very responsive way to avoid the increases seen in that model.”

    Levine was peppered with questions from news organizations, who wanted to know why some counties in the regions set to reopen Friday had been left out while others had been included, reflecting the frustration that lawmakers, local elected leaders and residents have expressed about the Democratic administration’s reopening plan.

    The briefing took place even as the state House took votes on a variety of measures aimed at speeding the reopening of some agencies and businesses.

    So far, voter sentiment has been on the administration’s side. Nearly seven in 10 respondents to a recent Fox News poll said they approve of Wolf’s management of the pandemic, the insider site PoliticsPA reported on April 22.

    John L. Micek
    John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. He's been covering Pennsylvania politics for more than 20 years and most recently served as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Micek's commentary is syndicated to more than 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. And he's a regular contributor to a host of broadcast outlets in Pennsylvania and abroad.