Health officials confirm 479 COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, now in 33 counties

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine speaks to journalists during an online briefing on Thursday, 3/19/20 about the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak in the Keystone State (Screen Capture).

(This story was updated at 1:36 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, with additional comment from state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine. Update: Monday, March 23, 7:22 a.m.: Officials in Montgomery County announced the county’s 1st fatality on Sunday night. Update: Monday, March 23, 7:54 a.m.: The Morning Call of Allentown reported the state’s fourth death, in East Stroudsburg, Monroe County)

Officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Health have confirmed 479 cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, up from 371 cases on Saturday. The illness is now present in 33 of 67 counties, with a new case confirmed in Dauphin County, the home county for Harrisburg, on Sunday.

There have been two deaths statewide, one last Wednesday in Northampton County. The second came this weekend in Clairton, Allegheny County.

“Our notable increase in cases over the last few days indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement. “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 to stay home.”

Wolf admin: Nearly 10K Pa. businesses have applied for shutdown waivers

Statewide,”there are 479 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 4,964 patients who have tested negative, and two total deaths. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending,” the Health Department said in its statement.

During a Sunday afternoon briefing, Levine said the Wolf administration has no plans to back off on the shutdown order it issued last week to all non-essential businesses. Earlier in the day, the administration’s top economic development official said nearly 10,000 businesses had submitted waiver requests. Because of that deluge, the administration extended its enforcement of that order to Monday morning.

“This order is essential to mitigate the spread, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We need people to stay home,” she said, adding that discussions about a potential shelter in place order remain ongoing, but no decisions have been made.

With the illness now present in just about half of all Pennsylvania counties, Levine emphasized that no one in Pennsylvania should let their guard down.

“Rural Pennsylvania not seen as many cases because of the low population density,” she said in response to one news organization’s query. “But every day, we’re seeing more counties affected. It’s important that we protect the health of everyone.

Levine told journalists that the state is staying in close contact with medical associations and other trade groups to make sure Pennsylvania hospitals have the resources they need to keep operating.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press