With reopening nearing, Pa. closing in on 2,200 COVID-19 fatalities

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

Pennsylvania’s Department of Health reported 479 new deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the state’s death toll to 2,195 since March 6. 

State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said the new death count represents people who died from the virus over the past two weeks, and is not a one-day total but rather “a result of our continued work to reconcile data from various sources.”

As of midday Wednesday, the state reported 1,102 new cases of the virus, bringing the total number of cases statewide to 44,366.

As state officials assess what counties may be able to loosen their stay-at-home orders and allow businesses to reopen starting May 8, Levine said Wednesday that some restrictions should remain in effect. 

As it eyes reopening, Pa. doesn’t have a plan for contact tracing. Here’s what that means and why it matters.

Gov. Tom Wolf said the benchmark for moving a county from “red” to “yellow” is to have 50 or fewer cases of coronavirus per 100,000 residents for two weeks.

But even in areas in the “yellow” phase of the state’s three-phase opening checklist, Levine said people should continue wearing face masks, practicing social distancing and working from home whenever possible.

“When we move forward to yellow, it is not a signal we are releasing everyone to go about their regular normal activities,” Levine said. “Yellow actually means we need to proceed with caution.”

The state will release its contact-tracing plan later this week, Levine said. 

During an online press briefing Wednesday, Levine fielded questions about reopening summer activities, and said there’s nothing to suggest that COVID-19 is spread via pools, lakes or other bodies of water. 

Correspondent Kim Lyons covers Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow her on Twitter, @SocialKimLy.