With 41 cases, COVID-19 spreads to western, central Pa., Wolf says

    Governor Tom Wolf at a March 12 press conference announcing Pennsylvania's new COVID-19 response strategies. Source: Commonwealth Media Services.

    State health officials on Friday afternoon announced eight new cases of COVID-19, including the first ones outside of eastern Pennsylvania, as Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the shutdowns of businesses and public spaces in one more southeastern county.

    The new COVID-19 cases bring Pennsylvania’s statewide total to 41, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced at a 5 p.m. press conference. They include one case in Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania. Three cases were also identified in Cumberland County in central Pennsylvania.

    Wolf also asked that community centers and entertainment venues be shut down in Delaware County outside of Philadelphia. On Thursday, Wolf ordered the same for Montgomery County.

    The two suburban Philadelphia counties are home to more than half of the state’s COVID-19 patients.

    “This is self enforcement, I’m not ordering the state police or the National Guard out,” Wolf said.

    He insisted that grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations in both counties should remain open, but urged businesses such as gyms, movie theaters, and non-essential retail outlets to close their doors to prevent unnecessary exposure to other people.

    The Department of Human Services announced in a press release Friday that it would close county assistance offices in Delaware and Montgomery Counties for two weeks starting Friday, March 13.

    On Thursday, Wolf has also ordered Montgomery County’s schools to close. He followed up the order Friday by calling for all state public schools, including charter schools, to close until March 30.

    Bucks special election

    Wolf also said there was discussion of moving a special election for a state House seat in Bucks County, scheduled for Tuesday, back in light of coronavirus.

    Moving the election back is up to House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. A spokesperson for Turzai said discussions were ongoing.

    In a Facebook post Friday, the Bucks County Board of Elections said it would supply hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and gloves at polling places. It also reminded voters they may bring their own blue or black ballpoint pen to mark their ballots.