Pa. now has 16 coronavirus cases; officials expecting community spread

    Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health.

    The state Department of Health has confirmed 16 cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania as of 4:30 pm on Wednesday, March 11, including two patients whose test results have been confirmed by the federal Centers for Disease Control. 

    The newest patient tested by the state resides in Monroe County and is currently hospitalized, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Wednesday.

    Pennsylvania officials have also learned of an out-of-state coronavirus patient who is hospitalized in Montgomery County, but state officials are not including that patient in Pennsylvania’s count of coronavirus cases. 

    Community spread “will occur”

    Pennsylvania’s newest patient contracted the virus through close contact with someone else who tested positive for the disease, Levine said.

    While there’s not yet evidence that the virus is circulating widely throughout the public, Levine said officials do expect it to enter the stage known as “community spread.” 

    Levine said officials are watching for the spread to begin in the southeast part of the state, where most cases are concentrated so far. 

    “Community spread will occur,” Levine said, noting that it’s already happening in other states and nations with coronavirus outbreaks.

    State lab still keeping pace with demand

    State health officials also released new testing data on Wednesday, when they confirmed that they have identified 173 Pennsylvanians for testing. 

    100 of those people tested negative for the virus, Levine said.

    Two of the test specimens have been confirmed by the federal Center for Disease Control, Levine said. An additional 14 are “presumed positive” based on testing in the state lab in Exton, Chester County, where an additional 57 of those tests are pending.

    Levine said the lab can test up to 100 specimens a day. 

    “We can keep up with whatever the demand is currently,” Levine said Wednesday. 

    State officials not yet mandating the cancellation of large events

    Municipalities across Pennsylvania have cancelled parades, concerts and public meetings to stem the spread of coronavirus. 

    A growing roster of colleges and universities have also extended their spring breaks or moved their courses online. 

    Levine said the state supports organizations that have cancelled large events, but is not yet requiring it. 

    State officials urge anyone exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, to call the state testing hotline at 877-PA-HEALTH (877-724-32584).

    How to get tested for coronavirus in Pennsylvania: Symptoms, how many cases, who to call and more